Did Supreme Court Justices Break State Law on Election Paperwork?

An abrupt hour-long recess by the Florida Supreme Court raised questions Monday about electioneering on state time.

During the hearing of a case -- an election case, ironically -- a state employee walked into the courtroom and handed Justice Charles Canady a note. The court recessed in the middle of testimony in the redistricting case.

The reason for the interruption was a pressing need for justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince -- all of whom face retention votes this fall -- to formalize their election intentions. Failure to meet the Monday deadline would have enabled Gov. Rick Scott to appoint replacements.

Sources tell Sunshine State News that the necessary forms were submitted at the Division of Elections and were notarized by court employees.

Depending on who pulled together the justices' paperwork, the justices may have run afoul of Florida Statute 106.15 (3), which states:

"A candidate may not, in the furtherance of his or her candidacy for nomination or election to public office in any election, use the services of any state, county, municipal, or district officer or employee during working hours."

Sources told Sunshine State News that Pariente's paperwork was filed by Alyssa Lathrop, a law clerk for Pariente. Lewis' paperwork was notarized by Gail Posey, his judicial assistant. Connie Sundquist notarized Quince's papers.

Lathrop, Posey and Sundquist are in the state court system's database of employees.

The situation raised concerns at the judicial watchdog group, Restore Justice.

"Revelations of the justices' difficulty complying with election deadlines looks suspicious. It appears as though the papers were filed during working hours and handled by state employees, which may violate state law," said the group's president, Jesse Phillips.

"We look forward to further facts of the case being disclosed," Phillips said.

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Comments (5)

9:45AM APR 24TH 2012
Whether Restore Justice is right wing or not does not change the issue of whether state law was violated by those three. As it is reported, it seems pretty clear that they did. It would be a lot easier if they just admitted it and accepted their punishment whatever it may be. Then we can all go back to worrying about things that matter.
4:38PM APR 24TH 2012
Of course not, but WHO besides "Restore Justice" (and this article) is even making this claim (and based on what actual legal determination of a violation)?

Can the apparent facts mislead or lie - for example, would these same folks normally legally handle these matters for any of the judges?

If "Restore Justice" were so sure that a state law violation occurred why protect themselves from slander with caveating words like "looks suspicious", "It appears as", "which may violate" and not immediately rush to go file a legal complaint with the appropriate authorities.

Perhaps your rush to judgement is a little premature . . . after all, even the highly biased "Restore Justice" is waiting for "further facts".
9:26PM APR 24TH 2012
So its okay for a justice of the Supreme Court to violate the law so long as no one questions it? Sorry, not buying that.

I don't see any rush to judgment, other than yours that the only reason this is an issue is because its some right wing conspiracy.
12:46AM APR 25TH 2012
Read a little more carefully and perhaps you won't jump to unnecessary conclusions:

RUSH TO JUDGMENT: "As it is reported, it seems pretty clear that they did. It would be a lot easier if they just admitted it and accepted their punishment whatever it may be" - THIS ASSUMES THAT WHAT WAS DONE WAS ILLEGAL.

Whenever someone says "I accuse" look to see what their agenda might be - one might learn a little about why they're throwing stones. . . .in this case a group funded by Winter Park computer programmer and Tea Party organizer Jesse Phillips, who (according to a Florida Bar news summary was "prompted by the justices' ruling upholding a lower court decision that barred a constitutional amendment proposed by the Republican-controlled Legislature to opt out of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul".

So yes, this is all involved with right wing partisan politics, demonizing the President and "Obamacare".

I think I'll wait until someone grown up and a little more impartial than the very group that has been out to get these justices removed for the past few years indicates it's illegal, unless, of course, you're a Florida Bar attorney who's an expert in such cases.
9:37AM APR 24TH 2012
I mean it's not like "Restore Justice" is politicallty partisan or anything, right?

They've only been on a multi-year campaign to remove all non-rightwing justices, regardless of merit, who don't agree with their view that "They have disenfranchised every voter in the state on multiple occasions, and greatly overstepped their constitutional limitations, proving that they truly are one of the most activist courts in the nation."

Really? Disenfranchised every voter? Really? Since when has this right-wing fringe become every voter, except in their own minds and partisan political agenda. In their minds, the rest of us are just irrelevant collateral damage. Stop giving them a forum or fess up to your own rightwing partisanship.

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