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What is Merit Retention of Judges in Florida?

08/22/2012
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Many states have their vacancies for judges filled through a typical election. Candidates file, they campaign (to the extent they are ethically allowed), and the candidate with the most votes assumes the office of judge. That is the way we in Florida handle all judicial positions except those judges in the appellate courts and those who sit on the Florida Supreme Court.

Instead of running against another candidate, the justices stand for “merit retention”; as taht process is described in Article V, Section 10 of the Florida constitution. Sadly, although our constitution describes the way teh ballot will read for the justices:

“Shall Justice ___________________ of the Florida Supreme Court be retained in office?”

The Florida constitution does not go much beyond that in terms of instruction. So what is “merit retention”? The retention part seems fundamentally simple and straightforward, but what about the merit part? Following is a video by Attorney Patrick Quinlan, which I think does a great job with explaining the entire process and the related history of merit “elections” :

I wanted to go at it a little bit differently though, so I looked up the term “merit”:

The Free On-line Dictionary says that merit is “superior quality”, demonstrated ability”, and an aspect of character or behavior deserving approval”.

Webster says: “praiseworthy quality”, character or conduct deserving reward”, and “achievement”.

MacMillan says: “quality that someone has”, “the good qualities of someone”, and “something that makes you think someone is of value”.

Based upon the objective news reports about Justices Pariente, Lewis and Quince, it seems pretty obvious that these are judges that demonstrate ability, have acted ethically in their jobs and who have done a good job as that term is applied to people who work for you.

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