Monday, May 21, 2018
News Roundup

Gov. Rick Scott weighs investigation of Supreme Court justices for misdemeanors

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott is considering calling for an investigation into whether three Supreme Court justices are guilty of a misdemeanor in their scramble to get papers filed last week in their merit retention races.

Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican, had sent a letter to Scott on Thursday asking for the probe. The governor is evaluating whether to order the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate, according to the governor's staff.

Plakon cited media reports about the court's rare, hour-long break in the midst of redistricting arguments last week in which Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and R. Fred Lewis scrambled to complete paperwork needed to be named on the November ballot.

Supreme Court justices and district court of appeal judges are not elected, but are appointed by the governor in Florida.

To keep them accountable to the public, the Florida Constitution requires them to appear on the ballot for a "yes or no" merit retention vote every six years.

Another state law prohibits candidates for public office from using the services of any government staff "in the furtherance of his or her candidacy" during working hours. Violators are guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor.

Dan Stengle, the lawyer working with the justices on their merit retention campaigns, said a "comedy of errors" led to the need to take a recess in the court hearing so that the justices could get their paperwork completed by the noon filing deadline. He denied that they violated the law.

Plakon disagrees and urged the governor to ask the FDLE to investigate.

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