Without offering evidence, members of the state police and firefighter unions charged that the governor and legislative leadership were behind the Republican Party of Floridas declared opposition to the three Supreme Court justices that are up for re-election.
RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry pre-emptively rejected such a charge over the weekend.
In a media call on Monday, Florida State Fraternal Order of Police and Florida Professional Firefighters leaders, who have been at odds with Gov. Rick Scott and GOP leaders in the Legislature over pensions and the privatization of correctional facilities, voiced displeasure in the justices retention becoming a political issue.
And they remain unconvinced by assurances from Curry that the partys executive committee voted to oppose the retention of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince without guidance from the governor or other state leaders.
This is the ultimate in judge shopping, said Jeff McAdams, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police. This is an effort to hijack the courts, which we think is unacceptable.
The Supreme Court of the state of Florida is a third branch of our government; it is Independent, it is autonomous and it should stay that way.And to have it influenced by the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or any party smacks in the face of our Constitution.
Curry declared that there had been a grassroots groundswell prior to the executive board vote last month.
And while these judges and their political allies have attempted to drag Governor Rick Scott into the fray and blame him for the decision of the RPOF executive board, they couldnt be more out of touch with reality, Curry wrote. The idea came from the grassroots of the party -- people who are fed up with these justices -- and the governor had nothing to do with it.
A spokesman for House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, also dismissed the charged.
Speaker-designate Weatherford was not consulted about the decisions made by the Republican Executive Committee and therefore has no comment on the matter, Ryan Duffy responded in an email on Monday.
Nelson Cuba, president of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police, who is a member of the Duval County Republican Party Executive Committee, said retention was never broached at local party meetings he has attended.
If it happened at one of our meetings, it was not one I was at, Cuba said. I cant speak for other counties, but if we talked about it, I would like to see the minutes.
While Scott would get a chance to appoint up to three new Supreme Court justices if voters rejected the retention of all three, his office denied he pushed for such a measure.
Governor Scott did not have any knowledge of the vote, Press Secretary Jackie Schutz responded in an email on Monday. Governor Scott believes the people have a constitutional right to vote on the retention of these justices every six years.
Reach Jim Turner at email@example.com or at (772) 215-9889.