Gov. Scott rejects Rep. McBurney for judgeship after NRA furor
When Rep. Charles McBurney of Jacksonville learned Friday that a member of Gov. Rick Scott's staff had called, he didn't need to ask why.
A time-honored tradition in the governor's office is that the governor calls the person he picks for an appointment and staff members deliver the bad news to everyone else. McBurney was a finalist for a Jacksonville judgeship. He didn't get it.
In eight years in the House, McBurney was a respected figure around the Capitol, but he made one big mistake by alienating Marion Hammer, the long-time lobbyist for the NRA, who has a mailing list of loyal supporters that would be the envy of many a Florida politician.
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, McBurney, a former prosecutor, refused to hear a bill in the 2016 that he said would have shifted the burden of proof too far under the self-defense law known as "stand your ground" from citizens to state attorneys. A livid Hammer revved up the NRA membership and Scott got more than 8,000 emails demanding that McBurney not be chosen.
Scott chose Robert Dees, 53, a Jacksonville lawyer, from the field of six candidates.
McBurney wasn't surprised by the outcome, but he told the Times/Herald: "The message that Ms. Hammer is sending to the Legislature is that even if the issue doesn't concern the Second Amendment, if you're not in agreement with her, she's coming after you."
Hammer told The News Service of Florida in an email: "McBurney's misdeeds were in the final week of session. He's lucky it was the last week, otherwise Speaker (Steve) Crisafulli might have removed his chairmanship. No one belongs on the bench who sacrifices the rights of the people for personal gain. He talks about all of his previous votes, but we all know that what you do today portends what you will (do) tomorrow."