Splitting the Florida Supreme Court into separate criminal and civil divisions and adding three justices was always more about Republican House Speaker Dean Cannon's animosity toward the high court than any pressing need. Now that Cannon's original idea has been defeated by moderate state Senate Republicans joining Senate Democrats, what's left of the proposed constitutional amendment is just distasteful, not disastrous. Even so, the changes should not be made.
The Florida Senate passed Cannon's HJR 7111 Monday on a 28-11 party-line vote after heavily amending it. The Senate jettisoned the central provision, an expanded Supreme Court, as well as a plan to guarantee funding for the courts equal to 2.25 percent of general revenue every year — which came to be seen as a potential constraint on adequate court system funding.
But much of what remains would still harm the independence of Florida's judiciary. It would subject Florida Supreme Court justices appointed by the governor to confirmation by the state Senate, an expensive and unnecessary step since the Senate would likely have to be called back into session. The Legislature also would be able to repeal court-established rules of practice and procedure by a simple majority vote rather than the two-thirds currently required.
Ultimately, any changes would have to be approved by voters, who would have to pass the amendment by 60 percent. But the measure remains an untenable product of Cannon's ire at the high court for rejecting three constitutional amendments that the Republican-led Legislature wanted on the 2010 ballot.