Battleground Florida -- How to buy justice in your state
John HopkinsOctober 31, 2012 10:17 AM
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The justice system in Florida is under attack today. Well-funded political action committees (PAC’s) supported by the Kansas billionaires, the Koch brothers, and those led by Karl Rove are trying to buy the justice system to make it work for them and their special interests.
Today, in the National Law Journal, two former Supreme Court Justices spoke out; Former Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court Ruth V. McGregor and former Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court Randall T. Shepard. Both of these justices were appointed by Republican governors and they have no partisan axe to grind. These justices are in fear of PAC’s buying justice one state at a time:
“For more than a decade, special interests have engaged in increasingly partisan efforts to tilt the scales of justice, spending tens of millions of dollars to elect judges whom they believe fit their political beliefs. Now these assaults on America's courts are expanding in troubling new ways and in dimensions we have never witnessed.
In states as dissimilar as Florida and Iowa, interest groups are seeking to oust judges because they disagree with a few rulings in controversial cases. By focusing on retention elections — a historically low-key vote focusing on judges' professional qualifications — these groups have threatened to puncture a protective shield that keeps politics outside the courthouse.”
Justice McGregor and Justice Shepard both well understand the function of merit retention races and the design they be non-partisan in which justices are reviewed for their competence and ethics, but not assaulted with a handful of rulings cherry picked from thousands they have decided.
This year, Florida saw a single political party come out and assault three competent and ethical Supreme Court Justices; injecting politics right into the heart of 2012 merit retention votes. Justices Lewis, Pariente and Quince have had a few cases they have decided twisted and spun to fit the needs of special interests to label them as “activist judges”.
Florida has seen its chief lawyer, Attorney General Pam Bondi, run from defending the merit retention process and supporting the ideal of keeping politics out of the courts. Ms. Bondi has opted for a “no comment” position.
The man who stands to gain the most from defeat of these justices is Florida’s governor and leader of the Florida Republican Party, Rick Scott. Mr. Scott will be permitted the opportunity to appoint justices who he believes will vote “his way”, rather than justices who will uphold the law and the constitution.
To add insult to injury, this year we are also faced with rumors of badly designed ballots, printer errors on ballots, confusing constitutional amendments and voters coming to vote only to be told they already have voted.
So, for the remainder of America; beware your courts and justice in your respective state are not put upon the auction blocks for the most powerful, richest in the country to bid on and to purchase their own special brand of justice. Sadly, I am afraid we have turned back the clock to the “good ol’ days” when robber barons controlled politicians and justice was a commodity instead of a right.