Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge: Supreme Court justices can stay on November ballot

TALLAHASSEE — In a rare ruling from the bench, Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit arguing that three state Supreme Court justices seeking merit retention on the November ballot should be disqualified for using court-appointed staff to help them complete their qualifying papers.

Lawyers for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner and for Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince argued that the suit, brought by two voters from Lee and Seminole counties, was without merit.

They said there is a framework in place already, through the Florida Elections Commission and the Judicial Qualifications Commission, to address the concerns of the two voters. Detzner has determined that the three judges properly submitted their qualifying paperwork and should remain on the ballot.

Lewis said the plaintiffs, Bernard Long and Ron Flores, failed to prove they were personally harmed by allowing the process in place to go forward and ruled that they had no standing to bring the lawsuit.

"I don't think your clients get to speak for everybody,'' Lewis said, before dismissing the case with prejudice, ending the case because it was brought in error. Anticipating an appeal, he added, "We'll let the district court of appeal decide whether I'm right or not."

The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Shannon Goessling, immediately announced they will appeal the case, and, if they lose there, will take it to the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

She said the justices flaunted the law with impunity when they stopped a hearing on the Senate redistricting case to complete their last-minute paperwork to be on the ballot for the merit retention vote in November.

"I don't believe any Legislature or governor who signs anything into law thought that appellate judges would be able to conduct themselves in a way that is contrary to law and should be qualified," she said.

"This was a political action without merit,'' said Sandy D'Alemberte, a former dean of the Florida State University law school and former president of the American Bar Association. D'Alemberte said it was "very much a frivolous suit" intended as part of a years-long effort to purge the court by conservatives and replace judges with like-minded, politically sympathetic jurists.

Judge: Supreme Court justices can stay on November ballot 08/08/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 11:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' Doug Martin relying on strength from drug rehab to power his return


    TAMPA — He would not talk about the drug he abused. He would not identify the rehab facility he entered in January or how long he was there.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  2. NCAA: Former USF basketball assistant gave improper benefits


    TAMPA — Former USF men's basketball assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided impermissible benefits, including lodging at his home, for two prospective student-athletes while they received on-campus tutoring, according to findings reported to the school by the NCAA.

  3. Assault charge may not sway voters in Montana election (w/video)


    BOZEMAN, Mont. — Republican multimillionaire Greg Gianforte won Montana's only U.S. House seat on Thursday despite being charged a day earlier with assault after witnesses said he grabbed a reporter by the neck and threw him to the ground.

    People fill out ballots for the special election to fill Montana's only U.S. House seat at the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark on Thursday in Billings, Mont. [Associated Press]
  4. Quiet college dropout turned bomber: Who was Salman Abedi?


    LONDON — He was quiet and withdrawn, a college dropout who liked soccer — and, some say, showed alarming signs of being radicalized years before he walked into a pop concert at Britain's Manchester Arena and detonated a powerful bomb, killing himself and 22 others.

    Salman Abedi was identified by British authorities as the man behind Monday’s attack.
  5. Soldiers launch attacks in besieged Philippine city


    MARAWI, Philippines — Backed by tanks and rocket-firing helicopters, Philippine troops launched "precision attacks" Thursday to clear extremists linked to the Islamic State group from a city that has been under siege since a raid that failed to capture one of Asia's most-wanted militants.

    Soldiers fire at enemy positions Thursday while trying to clear the city of Marawi, Philippines, of armed militants.