Justices Pariente, Quince Gave $30,000 to Liberal Group Opposing Conservative Colleagues

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: March 8, 2013 3:55 AM
Peggy Quince and Barbara Pariente

Supreme Court Justices Peggy Quince, left, and Barbara Pariente, right.

In the wake of Gov. Rick Scott's appointment of Alan Forst to the Florida 4th District Court of Appeal, Sunshine State News has discovered that state Supreme Court Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince donated nearly $30,000 to the liberal activist group that opposed Forst's candidacy.

“I believe this is the first time in our history that two sitting Supreme Court justices have diverted campaign cash to a group that used the money to attack a fellow Florida Bar member nominated to the appellate court,” a former high-ranking government attorney tells SSN. “This action has the potential to undermine the integrity of the merit selection process.”

Forst fills the seat vacated by retiring Judge Fred Hazouri, who is Pariente's husband.

Contributor records maintained by the Florida Division of Elections show that Pariente and Quince respectively donated $23,000 and $5,922.65 of their leftover campaign monies to Democracy at Stake, less than two months after winning retention to the high court in November. Democracy at Stake was founded with the express purpose of defending the justices and their successful campaigns against critics who charged that they (along with Justice R. Fred Lewis) are left-wing judicial activists who do not interpret law according to its original public meaning.

Lewis, who had also been up for retention, donated $3,837.73 of his leftover campaign cash to Florida Law Related Education Association, a charity that develops and implements legal education programs for young people.

As SSN reported Thursday, Democracy at Stake had criticized Forst's nomination to Gov. Scott by the Judicial Nominating Commission, along with five other candidates, on the basis of Forst's lack of trial court experience and his self-identification as a “conservative.” Ironically, none of the three justices for whom the organization campaigned had served as a trial court judge prior to his/her appointment to an appeals court; Lewis himself had no judicial experience whatsoever before his appointment to the Supreme Court by Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1998.

Founded and headed by former state Sen. Alex Villalobos, Democracy at Stake has lambasted conservative grassroots organizations and state Republicans for “politicizing” the judicial appointment and retention process. It joined the three justices in insisting that the only criterion voters should consider when determining to retain judges is whether the judges maliciously engaged in “bad conduct,” and that voters should give no regard to judges' judicial philosophy or how it might affect their rulings.

“During last year's campaign, these justices defended their retention and selection process and complained about the effects of putting money into it,” Jesse Phillips, president of Restore Justice, a group that opposed the justices' retention, told SSN. “And now that they've been retained, we're starting to see that was just rhetoric."

Phillips said the justices' contributions constituted nothing less than “complete hypocrisy.”

“When citizens get together to express their right to vote and to shape our government, [Pariente and Quince] think that's a bad thing,” he continued, citing the criticism frequently leveled against his organization by the justices and their supporters. “Yet when there's an opportunity for them to funnel money to try to shape the outcome of the courts, I guess that's OK, as far as they're concerned.”

Neither Democracy at Stake nor the Florida Supreme Court returned requests for comment before this story went to press. Forst also declined to comment.

Scott's office did not respond to requests for comment either, though it did refer SSN to Scott's press release officially announcing Forst's appointment.

"Through leadership and public service, Alan has shown a commitment to the principle of judicial restraint and the rule of law,” Scott said in the statement. “He is a clear thinker who understands constitutional issues and his unique intellect will enhance the work for 4th District Court of Appeal for years to come.”

“I think Forst is a good pick,” Phillips concurred. “I am encouraged that the governor did not listen to the group that was trying to undermine this candidacy, and instead made a decision based on principle and not on leftist attempts to torpedo a perfectly good candidate.”

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116.

Comments (8)

11:30AM MAR 9TH 2013
Sighhhh . . . I see that SSN is continuing with its personal "Attack Politics" against the justices even after their overwhelming retention by the voters . . . . why should we not be surprised, when even rebuttal of the previous "activist" acquisitions by a Federalist Society report didn't alleviate these attacks prior to the November retention vote . . . . . sighhh . . . we'll just have to acknowledge the continuing shrill juvenile behavior. . .

Pathetic. . . .
motor oil
5:23PM MAR 8TH 2013
everything and one is for sale - is there any stronger statement?
12:51PM MAR 8TH 2013
Justices should stand for election. Serve a maximum of two consecutive terms of 6 years.
11:34AM MAR 8TH 2013
Supreme Court justices are bound by the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct. While some might agree with the political views of these organizations, I believe there are provisions in Cannon 5 that frown upon this types of behavior. If the timing of the contributions were directly linked to the attack of the new judge, then I suspect these judges might have to answer for these contributions. I doubt they are so timed, so I doubt this will end up going anywhere.

The irony of Villalobos' group is that he is doing exactly that - politicizing the judiciary. Candidates who do not line up with the personal injury bar, or the liberal leanings of the Florida Bar,
are frequently attacked by his group, and through other wisper campaigns that make it clear to the Bar members of the JNC that these appointments are "right-winged", or "ideological". Meanwhile proponents of the personal injury backed candidates who liberally construe the law and side with the personal injury bar are "thoughtful" and "moderate".

Its a false framing, or mischaracterization of more reasonable jurists so the the Florida Bar can maintain their grip on a liberal judiciary that has been out of step with Florida now for decades.
Dr. Judy Meissner
10:57AM MAR 8TH 2013
Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince need to be REMOVED from the bench, whether by impeachment, recall, or what have you. Pariente and Quince are as CORRUPT as they come. They both are an embarrassment to the people of Florida and to the legal profession.
Pariente and Quince should not remain on the Florida Supreme Court.
Where Were You in November?
11:46AM MAR 8TH 2013
Sorry but we had our chance last year. Almost 70% of us voted to keep Pariente and Quince in office. The people spoke as much as I disagree with it.
8:07AM MAR 8TH 2013
So justices and judges are colleagues? Villalobos was republican leader in the Senate despite Giunta hyperventilating about how liberal the group is.
Franklin Thompson
7:16AM MAR 8TH 2013
It's OK. It's the same as other groups opposing (and voting not to retain) these same two justices because of their liberal stances regarding their decisions as justices.

Once you discover that judges do not support your views you should always vote not to retain.

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