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.