JNC to Rick Scott: Seven Names for 1st DCA Vacancies, That's Your Lot
Around the State
In a stare-down over judicial nominations, Gov. Scott blinked. As if he had much choice.
Looking to fill two seats on Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal, Scott was given a list of seven names from the Judicial Nominating Commission.
According to state rules, up to 12 names (six for each slot) could have been provided. And Scott requested that complement.
But Katherine Giddings, a member of the 1st DCA nominating commission, said at a meeting Tuesday, "We let the governor know we sent him the seven names and those are the names we're going to be sending."
In other words, he gets what he gets.
Having made two unsuccessful requests for more names, Scott will proceed to interview the seven candidates forwarded by the JNC, said Scott spokesman Lane Wright.
The nominees to replace retiring Judges Charles Kahn and Peter Webster are: Jim Daniel, Miguel Olivella Jr., Stephanie Williams Ray, Charles Stampelos, Ronald Swanson, Jessica Enciso Varn and Waddell Wallace,
The JNC reported received 25 applications and interviewed 16 candidates.
Tension over judicial nominations is nothing new, says Florida Bar President Mayanne Downs.
"I sympathize with Scott's frustration. He wants the widest selection to make the best decision," Downs told Sunshine State News.
But Downs, who once applied to be a judge in the 5th DCA, said she has "great respect for the JNC process."
"I have a high level of confidence in it," she said.
Still, previous governors have complained about the choices they got from the JNC.
Scott's predecessor, Charlie Crist, chided the JNC in 2008 when it failed to offer any black nominees for a 5th DCA seat. Ultimately, the JNC refused to send him any black nominees, despite Crist's call for more diversity on the bench.
Beyond racial concerns, some conservatives allege that the JNC system locks in a liberal bias of trial lawyers.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, at the 2011 Legislature, criticized the JNCs as unelected bodies unduly controlled by the Florida Bar. Cannon, an attorney, proposed a federal-style system, which would abolish the JNC and give the governor (like the president) full latitude in selecting judges, with Senate confirmation required.
The Bar, with the help of key Republican senators, beat back Cannon's reform proposal, leaving the JNC role and influence essentially intact.
"This is why we need to reform the JNC. We elected Governor Scott and, like any governor, given him the responsibility of filling court vacancies," said Jesse Phillips, founder of the activist group, Citizen2Citizen.
"Unelected Florida Bar members and holdovers from the Crist era are choosing to play political hardball instead of meeting the governor’s reasonable request for a few more nominations."
Reach Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.