'Zero' Chance RPOF Reverses Course on Justices Retention

By: Jim Turner | Posted: October 12, 2012 5:30 PM
Rene Garcia, Paula Dockery and Dennis Jones

Sens. Rene Garcia, Paula Dockery and Dennis Jones

Zero. Nil. Nada.

As the first President Bush was often characterized on "Saturday Night Live": “Ain’t gonna happen.”

A request for the state GOP’s executive committee to change its mind on the fate of three Supreme Court justices by three members of the Florida Senate -- two who will no longer be in office after November -- has “zero chance” of success.

A spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida flatly rejected the plea from Sens. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, and Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, for the party’s executive committee to change its mind on opposing the retention votes for Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.

“The vote against these three justices was unanimous, and reflects a growing grassroots revolt that they have politicized the court, and are so soft on crime that all nine U.S. Supreme Court justices, including the liberal Ruth Bader Ginsberg, have had to intervene to keep a convicted murderer on death row,” replied RPOF Communications Director Brian Burgess.  

“Now, they are waging a full-blown political campaign to save their jobs. There is zero chance that RPOF will reconsider.”

The three justices have long been a thorn for the RPOF, going back to the Florida Supreme Court’s stances in Bush v. Gore in 2000.

Dockery, Garcia and Jones argued that the parties have remained out of the retention elections since the system was created in 1976.

“The justices who are up for merit retention on the November ballot have served ably and honestly in their roles as Supreme Court justices,” wrote the three senators. “Each was retained by the voters in 2006 and immediately after their respective appointments.”

They also expressed hope that additional Republicans would follow their example to help voters.

Dockery, Garcia and Jones are not the first Republicans to question the executive committee’s decision. But they formally submitted their request in a letter also released to the media.

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi have tried to stay out of the discussion, saying the party matter is up to the party.

Dockery and Jones -- who have a track record of bucking the party line as they joined the mutiny against prison privatization and the parent trigger school choice bills in the spring -- will relinquish their seats in the Senate this year due to term limits.

The letter from Dockery, Garcia and Jones:

We the undersigned are deeply concerned over the September 21 decision of the eight-member Republican Party of Florida executive board to recommend a “no” vote for the retention of Justices Lewis, Pariente and Quince.

Since the passage of the merit selection/retention system into our state Constitution in 1976, both major political parties have maintained neutrality out of respect for the independence of the judiciary and the strong desire of the citizens of Florida to keep politics out of the courts.

The justices who are up for merit retention on the November ballot have served ably and honestly in their roles as Supreme Court justices. Each was retained by the voters in 2006 and immediately after their respective appointments.

As policy makers, we respect the balance of power between our three branches of government. Each of us has been disappointed in one ruling or another from this and other courts. But the need for a fair and impartial judiciary far outweighs our individual disagreements with any specific opinion.

We encourage the RPOF to reconsider this unprecedented insertion of politics into what has been a system that has served Florida and her citizens well.

We hope that additional Republicans will make their voices heard over the upcoming weeks so that voters understand that Justices Lewis, Pariente and Quince have served with distinction and deserve to be retained on the court.

Senator Paula Dockery. R-Lakeland
District 15

Senator Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah
District 40

Senator Dennis Jones, R-Seminole
District 13.

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

Comments (2)

6:40PM OCT 18TH 2012
I always vote "No" on justice retention. I don't care for career politicians of any stripe, not even justices who claim not to be politicians. Don't fall for the nonsense that justices aren't politicians. You don't achieve that level without doing a lot of politicing along the way. I will quit believing that justices are partisan when it truly becomes impossible to predict, with about 90% accuracy, how any justice is going to rule on any given case. Most rule based on ideology. not law.
8:37PM OCT 12TH 2012
Duh, let's double down. Don't care how stupid we look. Duh, don't care how many of our moderates we may piss off, or push away from the party. We are the RPOF . . . . . all eight of us (Lenny, Blaise, Jeff Ade, Kathleen, Daryll, Sharon, Paul) can do what we want . . . no elected Senators going to tell us what to do . . . . . we just go where no party's gone before - partisanship at its worst, attacking judges in a statutorily non-partisanship retention election . . .

I knew there was a reason I left this party in disgust . . . pathetic.

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