Florida Bar Out to Educate Voters on Judicial Merit Retention

By: Jim Turner | Posted: May 1, 2012 3:55 AM
Merit Presser

Group campaigning for merit retention education gathers Monday at the Florida Press Center, Tallahassee | Credit: Dave Heller

The Florida Bar kicked off a $300,000 campaign in Tallahassee Monday to educate voters about the merit retention system.

The idea is to help Floridians this November make an informed choice as to whether three Florida Supreme Court justices and 15 appellate judges should keep their jobs.

A new survey shows 90 percent of the citizens of this state don’t understand merit retention and have no idea how it works.

Florida voters amended the Constitution in 1976 to try to keep politics out of the judicial system.

Former Gov. Reubin Askew, who is sometimes called the “father of merit retention” for his support of the system when he was governor in the 1970s, has joined the new campaign and was there at the Florida Press Center kickoff Monday to help publicize the program.

Called "The Vote's in Your Court," the program is not directed as a means of supporting or opposing any judge up before voters this year under the state’s merit retention program, said Scott Hawkins, president of the Florida Bar.

Since 1976 when Askew was in office, the state has required Supreme Court justices and district court of appeal judges to face voter retention in the first election cycle after being appointed and again every six years until retirement.

State Supreme Court justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince are up for merit retention in November.

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Courtesy: Dave Heller Video

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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