National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer launched a campaign this week to purge Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente from a case that could have far-reaching implications for the makeup of the court.
Hammer, long an influential figure in Tallahassee and a former president of the national gun-rights group, sent an email alert Wednesday morning to NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida “members and friends” urging them to tell Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Pariente that “she must recuse or resign” from her post.
“Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente has been caught in an act of what we believe is clear judicial misconduct and must recuse herself,” Hammer wrote, attaching an editorial penned by conservative political consultant Justin Sayfie.
In the email, Hammer wrote there “is no other appropriate option” for Pariente than recusal or resignation.
Gov. Rick Scott had asked Pariente to be removed from the case, which centers on whether the governor or his successor has the legal authority to appoint replacements for three justices --- Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince --- whose terms end as Scott leaves office in January 2019.
Scott's lawyers argued that comments by Pariente caught on a “hot mic” after oral arguments in the case indicated she was biased against the governor.
Hammer's Wednesday morning alert went out just as the court issued an order rejecting Scott's request that Pariente be disqualified from the case. Presiding law in similar cases says that justices, not the entire court, get to decide whether to recuse themselves.
Hammer said the court's decision Wednesday didn't matter.
“She can recuse or resign at any time, and those are the only realistic options that are available,” she told The News Service of Florida on Thursday.
Pariente, Quince and Lewis are part of a liberal-leaning bloc that holds a slim 4-3 majority on the state's high court. Whoever gets to choose the next three justices could shape court decisions for years, if not decades.
The court has thwarted efforts by Second Amendment supporters twice this year alone.
“The majority of our state's highest court is not only liberal leaning and biased against the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution but appears to beÂ comfortable with Justice Pariente's judicial misconduct,” Hammer said in the Thursday interview.
In September, a unanimous court drew a line in the sand in Florida's “stand your ground” law, by saying the determination of immunity in a criminal case does not carry over to a civil case.
In a 4-2 ruling in March, the court upheld a longstanding ban on people openly carrying firearms in public.
The court could also hear an appeal in another case related to a change in the state's “stand your ground” law. A Miami judge struck down the change, which supporters of the law called a “notable setback.”
NEGRON ALLY STANDS AGAINST BUSINESS GROUPS
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who describes herself as a teacher, real- estate agent and activist, finds herself going up against some of Florida's largest business groups.
And the former Sewall's Point mayor is playing her activist card as she seeks approval of one of her six proposed constitutional amendments.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida are mustering opposition to the proposal (P 23), which is intended to give Floridians more legal standing when environmental problems occur.
“My concern is that if you look at the Florida Constitution today all it has in it really is `adequate provision,' adequate provision will be taken for correcting pollution,” said Thurlow-Lippisch, who was appointed to the commission by Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart. “I think adequate provision is very vague. And I know that the opposition to this proposal feels like this language is vague. So maybe it's all very vague. And we should tighten it up and think about how we might be able to protect the environment for future generations.”
The Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years, has the power to place proposed constitutional amendments directly on the 2018 ballot. Thurlow-Lippisch and other members have proposed more than 100 amendments for consideration.
Blogging about water conditions and the impact of discharges from Lake Okeechobee, Thurlow-Lippisch, has been among residents of the Treasure Coast urging Negron in recent years to pass water-restoration legislation.
However, business groups contend that her proposed constitutional amendment about legal standing would hinder growth and drive up costs by expanding litigation on environmental issues.
Ryan Matthews, a former interim secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection who now represents the Florida Chamber, said the measure would “handcuff” the department's decision-making and could open the door to frivolous lawsuits by anti-growth and anti-business interests.
“Should a person show sufficient injury, they currently have the ability to challenge permitting decisions by the department, so there is no block,” Matthews said. “The likely result of this proposal is one where there is more regulatory uncertainty than currently exists today as we would await the multitude of court decisions that would decide whether or not Florida's environmental rules and regulations, which have been in place for some 45 years and are some of the most protective in the nation, are sufficient or not.”
Meanwhile, Nancy Stephens, representing the Florida Poultry Federation and the Manufacturers Association of Florida, said the measure isn't practical, and the wait for courts to interpret its meaning could cause business leaders to think twice about relocating to Florida.
“As CEOs sit around the table and evaluate where they're going to make their next investment, these are kinds of things they look at,” Stephens said. “And without certainty, they have fear.”
The proposal by Thurlow-Lippisch says that everyone has a right to clean air and water, which includes the ability to “enforce this right against any party, public or private, subject to reasonable limitations, as provided by law.”
Thurlow-Lippisch said she's willing to “tweak” the language to better define the “Floridians” who have such a right.
Bill Schifino, chairman of the commission's Judicial Committee, said the proposal may appear before his committee in January.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “It's been 51 days and it's time for Seminole Heights to have a good night's rest.”—Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (@BobBuckhorn), after the arrest of a suspect in four killings in the city's Seminole Heights neighborhood.