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State of Florida

Judicial Selection in the States: Florida

Overview

News

I mentioned in the last post on Arkansas Issue 1 that most states elect the clerks of their general jurisdiction courts. In all, a total...

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On the ballot this November in Arkansas is Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that would make several changes to the terms, election, and eligibility of...

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The Oklahoma Senate yesterday approved its version of HB 3162, a constitutional amendment that would restructure the way appellate judges are chosen in the state...

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Courtesy of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of...

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The Florida judiciary is composed of the supreme court, the district courts of appeal, the circuit courts, and the county courts. Appellate judges are chosen through a merit selection and retention process, and trial judges are chosen in nonpartisan elections. However, vacancies on the trial courts are filled by the governor from candidates recommended by a judicial nominating commission.

In 2000, a local option for merit selection and retention of trial judges appeared on the November ballot. In the months leading up to the election, proponents of merit selection and retention emphasized the number of disciplinary actions against elected judges and the potential for campaign contributions to tarnish the judiciary, while opponents stressed the right to vote for judges and the "closed door, elite" nature of the merit selection process. The Florida Bar spent $80,000 to promote the ballot measure, and another group, Citizens for Judicial Integrity, raised $37,000. The measure also received support in numerous editorials. Opposition to the measure came from the state's minority and women's bar associations, who worried that their gains on the bench would be diminished under merit selection. Members of these organizations formed Citizens for an Open Judiciary and spent approximately $75,000. Both sides offered speakers to address public gatherings and participate in debates. Two debates were sponsored by the American Bar Association and the American Judicature Society. Ultimately, the measure was rejected in every jurisdiction. The average affirmative vote was only 32%.