Florida voters will determine Nov. 8 whether or not three of the seven Florida Supreme Court justices will remain on the bench. Appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston will stand the retention election next week.
Additional retention candidates are six judges on the 4th District Court of Appeal (DCA), Cory Ciklin, Dorian Damoorgian, Jonathan Gerber, Robert Gross, Spencer Levine and Melanie May. The district spans the counties of Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee.
This merit retention system, often referred to as the assisted appointment method of judicial selection, was established in 1971 by Gov. Reubin Askew to address improprieties as justices were serving. The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission regulates conduct within the state’s court system to allow allegations against the judges to be investigated. Once determined, the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission will recommend to replace a justice who is then appointed by the governor.
The Florida Supreme Court faced issues with Republicans in 2012 when action was taken to attempt to unbench Labarga, Canady and Polston, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Retaliation resulted in an agreement to sustain their positions in office. The merit retention system continues to advocate for a bipartisan court system.
The nine members of the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commissions screen potential candidates for replacement in the Florida Supreme Court. The commission is composed of lawyers, non-lawyers and are selected by the state bar or executive branch.
If the justice’s term is retained, the term lasts for six years starting the January after the merit retention election. Confirmation in the retention is determined by two-thirds or more of voters, according to the Naples Daily News.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, a 2016 poll of 3,000 lawyers, 84 percent of votes supported to retain Canady and Polston while 91 percent voted to retain Labarga in the Florida Supreme Court system. While the poll conducted for the six judges on the 4th DCA, between 1,072 and 1,334 lawyers responded to the survey, the polls indicated Gerber received 92 percent, Gross with 91 percent, May with 90 percent, Ciklin and Damoorgian with 89 percent and Levine with 86 percent retention votes.