In Florida, a state supreme court justice must appear on the ballot every six years. There’s a perfect rationale, pragmatic, and democratic reason for this: It gives the people a chance to vote against jurists who have acted unethically, and are unfit for office. If you’ve betrayed the trust of the people you were elected to serve, you’ve got to go. It’s as simple as that.
Some individuals, however, want to make the process — called merit retention — simpler still, and dangerously so. They want you to vote against the justices on this year’s ballot not because of a pattern of misconduct, but because of a single vote. A vote, that, as these very individuals have freely admitted, was perfectly sound given the facts of the case. But a vote, nonetheless, that they just didn’t like.
This isn’t how merit retention was intended to be used. Not by a long shot. Ousting respected justices because of a single legal opinion — correct if unpopular in some circles — will set a chilling precedent. The merit-retention process was never supposed to be a referendum on a single issue, a single case. It was certainly never intended to remove jurists who applied their experience, knowledge, and integrity to the issues before them, looking at the facts of the case, not the political considerations of the moment.
We urge you, the voters, to follow their lead. To consider the facts, to do what is right, to leave considerations that should be out of the picture. Vote to retain the Florida Supreme Court justices on this year’s ballot.
Click to read why the Orlando Sentinel agrees.