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League Of Women Voters Sues Over Florida Supreme Court Appointments

Florida Supreme Court
Nick Evans

The League of Women Voters of Florida is suing Governor Rick Scott over the appointment of new state supreme court justices. 

The terms of three sitting Florida Supreme Court Justices expire the same day as a new governor will be sworn into office. The constitution is unclear on whether the job falls to the incoming or outgoing governor. Governor Rick Scott maintains he gets appointment rights, but state constitutional expert and former American Bar Association President Sandy D’Alemberte says not so fast.

“I think the governor loses. In the League of Women Voters case, the governor’s counsel seemed to concede as much," he says, referring to a 2017 Florida Supreme Court case. 

Florida voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution four years ago that would have given the appointment to the outgoing governor.

The League of Women Voters sued over the issue last year, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled the issue wasn’t  “ripe for consideration” given no moves had been made at the time. But last week, Scott ordered the state judicial nominating commission to begin looking for applicants.  The appointments have the potential to shift the political makeup of the Florida Supreme Court as the three outgoing justices are considered liberal.

The last time this happened, both the incoming and outgoing administrations reached a deal and appointed Justice Peggy Quince, who is one of the three justices that have reached the mandatory retirement age forcing them to step down.

"It’s disappointing that these partisan groups filed a politically-motivated lawsuit that would create three prolonged vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court, contrary to all historical practice," says John Tupps, Scott's spokesman.

"The Governor is following precedent set by Governor Chiles and has said in good faith that his expectation is that he and the governor-elect will agree on the selection of three new justices.” 

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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