The Bill of Rights was created to counter what our Founding Fathers called the tyranny of the majority. But in Florida, theres the tyranny of the minority, too, scorching a pants-on-fire path to the Supreme Court, trying to make a cockamamie case that three justices are unfit to be retained by voters.
Pumped up by its control of the governors office, the cabinet and the state Legislature, the Republican Party of Florida now is going after the three state justices who are up for retention by voters on Nov. 6: R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.
The partys campaign to fire the justices is unprecedented, and it has rocked the legal community and left key GOP elected officials, like Attorney General Pam Bondi and Jeff Atwater, the states chief financial officer, straddling for a no comment. I dont know if its the best place for the party to be, Atwater told the Associated Press.
Well, Mr. Atwater, you should know. And so should Ms. Bondi. The courts are a separate and equal branch of our government, not an arm of the ruling party as happens in dictatorships. By all means, let the voters decide, but dont inject partisan politics into a decision that should be based on competence and following the rule of law, not catering to partisan mandates.
Six former justices including two who were appointed by Republican governors (Cuban-American Raoul Cantero, appointed by Jeb Bush, among them) have been getting out the word that the GOPs assault on the judiciary is dangerous to our democracy. The Florida Bar and past presidents from the American Bar Association have all weighed in, warning of this assault.
Even Justice James Perry has gotten into the fray, writing an op-ed recently for The Miami Herald . Justices ability to be fair and impartial and at times make unpopular decisions ensures that all three legs of the stool the legislative, executive, and judicial branches remain in balance, he wrote after facing attacks himself two years ago during a retention race.
And former U.S. attorneys from Miami Roberto Bob Martinez and Marcos Jimenez, both Republicans and former Monroe County Sheriff Allison DeFoor also have tried to pull their party out of this assault, warning in a letter to the GOP that retention elections should not be turned into partisan political affairs.
Predictably, Floridas GOP chief, Lenny Curry, calls the criticism nonsense. The charge of injecting politics into what is already an issue before the voters is nonsense of the highest order.
Curry points to the justices raising $1 million in their defense, which is diabolically funny since the only reason groups defending the justices have been forced to raise the big bucks is to battle a coordinated campaign by tea party groups and now the state GOP to oust them and open up three judicial seats for tea party Gov. Rick Scott.
Rich in irony, considering that Scott won without capturing the majority of the vote, but simply a plurality.
Florida is such a transient state that many people dont know or understand why we get to vote every six years to retain appellate judges and Supreme Court justices. The reforms were approved by voters statewide in 1976 after a series of corruption scandals involving justices writing briefs prepared by lobbyists for special interests and campaign supporters. At least one justice took a junket to Vegas and two justices were accused of trying to put the fix on cases in lower courts. One justice flushed evidence down the toilet.