As deadline looms on judge pick, will Gov. Scott side with NRA?
Gov. Rick Scott has until Friday to appoint a new circuit judge in Jacksonville, and it may be the most closely-watched judicial appointment of his time in office.
The question is whether Scott will appoint state Rep. Charles McBurney, a Jacksonville Republican, to the court. McBurney has been the target of a well-organized effort by the National Rifle Association, which is trying to block his appointment because McBurney refused to hear a bill in the 2016 session that would have shifted the burden of proof from citizens to the state under the self-defense law known as "stand your ground."
McBurney, a former prosecutor who faces term limits and can't seek re-election, is one of six finalists for the post. The 59-year-old lawyer enjoyed high marks with the NRA, until now.
The NRA's Marion Hammer accused McBurney of pandering to prosecutors to enhance his bid for a judgeship, and she rallied her members and supporters to blast Scott with messages opposing McBurney. Thousands have responded from all over the state. Scott would antagonize a lot of NRA members if he appoints McBurney.
"As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee," Hammer wrote, "Charles McBurney arrogantly put his ambition ahead of your constitutional right of self-defense and your basic right to the presumption of innocence." The bill (SB 344), by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, passed the Senate, 24-12, and died in McBurney's committee.
However, on another legislative issue in 2016 that was a big deal to Scott, McBurney was there for him. The lawmaker voted for a bill (HB 1325) to set up a framework to spend $250 million in incentive money for future jobs deals. The House rejected Scott's request for the money, and the bill died in the Senate.