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Senate Democrats Call For Change To Judicial Nominating Process

Florida Supreme Court
Nick Evans

For the first time in nearly four decades no African American will be seated on the Florida Supreme Court unless changes are made. Now the Senate Democratic caucus is calling for a more diverse nomination list.

Not one of the six African Americans, out of a total of 59 applicants, made the Judicial Nominating Commission’s list of recommended candidates to fill three vacancies in the Florida Supreme Court.

Senator Perry Thurston claims during Governor Rick Scotts’ leadership, Scott has not diversified the courts-- rather the opposite.

“Since his time in office Governor Scott has packed the Judicial Nominating Commission process and the Florida Courts with like-minded, and those are his words, 'like-minded' partisans. He rarely sought diverse applicants for circuit court judgeship. circuit court judgeship He’s never selected a black judge to fill any of his 32 appointments to Florida’s five appellate courts,” said Thurston during a Wednesday press conference at the state capitol.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader, Audrey Gibson says the make-up of the courts should reflect the state.

But that’s not the case. Out of all Florida judges only 6.6 percent are African American while that same demographic makes up nearly 17 percent of Florida's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Thurston is pushing a bill to limit the influence the governor and politics has on the Florida Supreme Court nominations.

The legislation calls for the termination of all current members of the judicial nominating commission. Under the bill the governor would appoint only three of the nine new members and only five members could belong to the same party.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.