Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

House Speaker Dean Cannon scales back court reform proposal

TALLAHASSEE — Facing backlash from judges, lawyers and senators, House Speaker Dean Cannon on Wednesday eviscerated his own proposal for reforming the state's courts, dropping suggestions that judges receive 60 percent of votes to remain on the bench and that investigations of judges be made public.

He also altered his proposal for two five-member Supreme Courts, one to handle civil cases and one for criminal. Instead, Cannon wants to keep a single Supreme Court, but expand it from seven to 10 justices, with criminal and civil divisions.

In a news conference announcing the changes, Cannon said he intended the original proposals as a starting point.

"We worked hard to take input from the various stakeholders, members of the bench and the bar, and proceed in a thoughtful, focused way based on the feedback we've gotten as well as re-examining our own proposals to make them better," he said.

His new concept for the Supreme Court would allow the governor to pick a chief justice for each division from the current judges, and the position of chief justice for the overall court would rotate between the two division chiefs every four years. Cannon said this approach means it would be easier to manage such unified functions as administration of the branch and attorney discipline. The new court, he said, would be located in the First District Court of Appeal building in Tallahassee, the so-called Taj Mahal.

"The geography and the quality, if you will, of the first DCA courthouse makes that an appropriate place," Cannon said. "They have two courtrooms. They have ample room for the 10 justices."

As for investigations of judges, Cannon still wants to increase access to those by the Legislature, but not make them available to the public. That, he said, addresses concerns that ending confidentiality altogether would keep people from lodging complaints.

Cannon, R-Winter Park, also suggested two new proposals. One would expand the ability of the Supreme Court to hear appeals by removing a requirement that cases only go to the high court if there's a direct conflict between two district courts of appeal. And he wants to address funding concerns by providing a minimum court appropriation each year equivalent to 2.25 percent of general revenue. This year's funding equals 1.94 percent of general revenue.

Cannon also includes a measure that would allow the Senate to confirm the governor's appointments to the Supreme Court, and scales back a measure that would give the Legislature final say over court rules.

Most of the changes would require constitutional amendments approved by at least 60 percent of Florida voters.

Cannon has made remaking the court a top priority, rapping the Supreme Court for what he sees as an infringement on the Legislature's powers. He is irritated that the court last year struck three constitutional amendments proposed by the body from the November ballot. The courts ruled ballot summaries for the amendments were misleading.

As policymakers, Cannon said Wednesday, legislators have "the right" and "responsibility" to look at what is and isn't working and make improvements.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Bar said the group is evaluating Cannon's proposals.

Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, said he has concerns with legislation that "interferes with the court's rulemaking authority," and doesn't believe the Supreme Court needs more justices. He called the legislation an "attack on the third branch of government, the judiciary."

House Speaker Dean Cannon scales back court reform proposal 04/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 10:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91


    Jerry Lewis, who teamed with Dean Martin in the '50s before starring in The Nutty Professor and later founding the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon has died at 91 at his home in Las Vegas, according to his publicist.

    More to come.

    Jerry Lewis in the 2016 film "Max Rose." [Hopper Stone, Paladin]
  2. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years


    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501
  3. Pasco County man killed in wrong-way crash on New Jersey Turnpike


    MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Authorities say a Florida man driving the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into another vehicle.

  4. No bond for suspect in Kissimmee officers' fatal shooting


    KISSIMMEE — A suspect in the fatal shooting of two police officers in Florida will be staying in jail after a judge denied him bond Sunday, saying there was probable cause for his first-degree murder charge

    Officers Matthew Baxter, left, and Sam Howard, right, who were both shot and killed in Kissimmee, Florida, on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. [Kissimmee Police]
  5. Tampa police arrest 22-year-old man in July murder


    TAMPA — Police arrested Sunday a 22-year-old man who detectives said shot and killed a Tampa man after an argument.

    Tampa police arrested Dejonta Felder, 22, in the murder of 32-year-old Julius R. Carter. [Tampa Police Department]