Retaining Supreme Court Justices in Florida — Retaining Impartial Balance
I haven’t had much experience in my life with having everyone regularly agree with me on any given subjects. In fact, I don’t have ANY life experience with that phenomenon, yet that is exactly what Governor Scott and the folks at “Restore Justice 2012” want Floridians to vote for in November.
Governor Scott does not like some of the recent decisions made by the Florida Supreme Court. And, they really didn’t like it when the Court voted 5-2 in 2010 that a proposed amendment relating to Florida “opting-out” of participating in the Affordable Health Care Act was ruled confusing and deceptive; preventing it from being placed on the ballot. As a result, this faction wants the sort of revenge that comes with heads of these justices figuratively on a platter and actually seeing them stripped of their robes. Groups like Restore Justice and others with specific agendas have undertaken a campaign full of misinformation and misguided efforts to destroy the impartiality of the court and the separation of powers that governs our country and state.
Why this effort is misguided is elementary and junior high (middle school) social studies kind of stuff. It’s simple, not at all that confusing, and has at its origin in a very fundamental principle of our democracy – the separation of powers and the checks and balances between the branches of our government.
Justices serve on the Florida Supreme Court. Judges serve on lower courts. Judges and justices should be selected to serve based upon three basic qualifications:
1) integrity and honesty;
2) professional reputation, competence, experience and demeanor; and
3) judicial temperament, freedom from bias and a unwavering belief in equal justice under the law for all individuals.
Justices and judges should NOT be selected to serve based upon agreeing with the political party in power or with the governor of Florida.
The independence of the judiciary has always been a valued part of our democracy. Justices and judges, must be able to render decisions based on law and not people, must be protected from the influences of partisan politics and answer only to the law and the Constitution in making decisions. They can be neither beholden to nor influenced by elected officials. This is the hallmark of a fair and impartial judiciary.
In Florida and in the United States of America, the government is divided into branches, each with separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility so that no branch has more power than the other branches. Why is this important to remember? Because this foundation of democracy was created to eliminate the possibility that these newly-formed United States could ever be ruled by a monarchy and to allow for checks and balances between the branches to safeguard against that possibility.
Even George Washington knew, more than 200 years ago, how important this separation of powers was for our country. In his Farewell Address, he said people love power and are prone to abuse it and cautioned us of the “necessity of reciprocal checks of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories and constituting each the guardian … against invasions by the others.” Of such checks and balances through the separation of powers be concluded, “To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them.”
Also, there is an important political rule of thumb to remember: for every change you want when your party is in power, once that change is enacted, your opponents will have the exact same power. So, if the effort by groups like Restore Justice is successful, we no longer will have judges and justices in Florida who can rely upon the hallmarks of our democracy, that is, separation of powers between the branches of government.
We’ll be left with “if you don’t agree with the Governor, he and his cronies are going to run you off the bench” as the way things are.
Nobody should want that. Regardless of political party.