Just as we are recovering from a heated election that pitted the integrity of Florida Supreme Court Justices against special interest politics, we face another challenge.
This month, a Judicial Nominating Commission sent Gov. Rick Scott names of six nominees for appointment to the 4th District Court of Appeal. As a former state senator who fought tooth and nail to preserve the neutrality of our judicial system, I have a message for the governor: Keep politics out of our courts!
In the early 1970s, responding to judicial scandals, then-Gov. Reuben Askew initiated “merit selection” for gubernatorial appointments of judges. He established impartial citizen Judicial Nominating Commissions so that there would be no reason to doubt the qualifications of the nominees. In 1976, Florida voters added a constitutional amendment for “merit retention” of judges appointed on the basis of “merit selection” — in effect, doubly protecting our independent judiciary.
Today, however, some politicians and ideologues are mounting an aggressive campaign to stack our courts for the benefit of their own special interests.
All of us who believe that justice belongs to everyone should urge the governor to assess the qualifications of judicial nominees regardless of their politics; to recognize the need for diversity on the bench and consider, for example, women with outstanding credentials; and to resist the temptation to flout the constitution and make our courts a political extension of the executive and legislative branches of government.
Walter G. “Skip” Campbell, Jr., Fort Lauderdale