Rick Scott is trying to use the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as a political weapon to bludgeon the justices of the Florida Supreme Court into submission. Yes, in our through-the-looking-glass state, it's not our governor, who openly flouts election laws, who is being investigated. Scott wants criminal charges against three Florida Supreme Court justices because, in our "merit retention" system, the justice who are up for retention in this cycle had their applications notarized by court employees.
This is just one part of the attack on fairness in Florida courts.
The Florida Supreme Court is a mixed group, ranging from very conservative (Charles Canady, who was one of the leaders of the Clinton impeachment when he was in congress) to several centrist to center left justices appointed by governors as varied as Charlie Crist, Jeb Bush and the late, great Lawton Chiles. Under our system, the justices appointed by the governor have to face a "yes or no" retention vote. Three of the centrist justices are up for vote this year.
In recent years, the court has not been a shill for corporate interests. They have rendered some decisions that favored corporations, and some that did not.
This has perturbed Gov. Scott. First, he tried to get a bill through the legislature that would split the court in two, with separate civil and criminal branches, modeled on Texas. He, of course, would move all the justices who did not serve corporate interests to the criminal branch (all of the justices are fairly conservative on criminal issues), and he would get to appoint a new majority to the civil branch.
Even in our conservative Republican legislature, those efforts fell short. So now, during their merit retention election, Scott is seeking criminal charges against them.
What are the supposed charges? Scott alleges the justices violated state election law by having their applications for re-election notarized by court employees on court time. That's right, the guy whose company stole hundreds of millions from Medicare alleges these justices took approximately three minutes total of the time of public employees to notarize these documents. According to the Orlando Sentinel, this routinely has been done in the past by more conservative justices, who were, of course, not prosecuted.
I don't always agree with them, but these justices are some of the most fundamentally decent people you would ever meet. They have kept their independence and maintained fairness and justice under the most vicious attacks you could imagine.
The courts must be kept independent of any special interests. These justices are facing a partisan political attack like the one that took down the Iowa Supreme Court and the one that is now occurring in North Carolina. If you live in Florida, or if you have friends or family there, please read up on these justices, educate your family and friends, and, if you can, contribute to their retention campaigns.
I'm not an official member of their campaigns. I'm just a citizen of the state of Florida and the United States, and a lawyer, concerned about justice and fairness.
Here are links to their campaign websites. Please read their bios. they are remarkable people.