The Florida GOP released a statement last week saying it will oppose Florida Supreme Court Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince in the upcoming Florida retention elections.
The statement, according to a News Service of Florida press release, referenced the case of Joe Nixon, who had been convicted of the 1984 murder of Jeanne Bickner in Leon County. The Florida Supreme Court had ruled in favor of Nixon during an appeal in 2003 where Nixon said he hadn’t given his attorney the authority to admit his guilt to the jury.
The GOP statement specifically mentioned the three justices being opposed voted to set aside Nixon’s death penalty, according to the News Service of Florida press release.
Jon L. Mills, a professor and dean emeritus at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, as well as a former Florida Speaker of the House, said it was fundamental for members of an independent judiciary system to be evaluated based on their overall performance and not on any particular cases.
“I’ve argued cases in front of the Florida Supreme Court numerous times in the last four to six years,” he said. “And I haven’t always agreed with their conclusions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they are competent, good justices, so I think it’s most important to look at the entire record and their competency rather than any particular case.”
According to the News Service of Florida press release, supporters of the three justices have cried against the Florida GOP, saying the decision is an attempt by Republicans to take control of the courts. The three justices form a major part of the court’s leftwing majority.
The justices will not be running against opponents, but will need a majority vote from Floridians to keep their positions.
Mills said the concept of a supreme court was it would be independent from any kind of specific interest so that it could focus on long-term issues.
According to the press release, no sitting Supreme Court justice has ever lost a retention election before.
Mills did not think any Florida GOP campaigns would change that.
“I think if people look at the purpose of an independent judiciary and look at the records of these judges, they’ll vote to retain them,” Mills said.
The original text had quoted Mills as saying “…they are confident, good justices…” when he had actually said “…competent, good justices…” This has been corrected.