Friday, December 15, 2017
Editorials

Times recommends: Yes on merit retention for Justices Canady, Labarga and Polston

Three justices on the Florida Supreme Court face a merit retention vote in November, essentially an up-or-down vote of confidence allowing them to remain on the bench. Merit retention votes occur one year after the justices' initial appointment by the governor and then every six years. Voters have never removed a jurist through this process, but it is a valuable backstop to ensure integrity in the courts.

The three justices up for merit retention are Charles Canady, Jorge Labarga and Ricky Polston. All were appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist.

Canady, 62, is a native of Lakeland who served four terms in the U.S. House as a Republican, from 1993 to 2001. He then became general counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush, who appointed him to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in 2002. Crist elevated him to the Supreme Court in 2008.

Labarga, 63, was born in Cuba. He immigrated to Florida with his family as an 11-year-old. He worked as both a public defender and prosecutor in South Florida before moving on to private practice. Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed him to the circuit bench in 1996. Crist made him an appellate judge for the 4th DCA in 2008 and appointed him to the Supreme Court a year later. He currently serves as the state's chief justice.

Polston, 60, was an accountant before going to law school. Bush appointed him to the 1st DCA in Tallahassee in 2001 and he joined the Supreme Court in 2008.

Most voters can't know whether a high court justice has served with professionalism and deserves retention. The Florida Bar conducts a biennial poll of attorneys who are familiar with the court's work. This year, 5,967 lawyers participated, evaluating the justices on factors including quality and clarity of judicial opinions, knowledge of the law, integrity and impartiality. All three justices on the ballot this year were recommended for retention by the state's lawyers by a margin of 84 percent or more.

Another way the judiciary is policed in Florida is through the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing by judges and recommends disciplinary action. A check of the JQC database, which dates back to 2000, found that none of the justices up for retention has faced formal charges.

The justices are not running against each other, and they are not on the ballot because they did anything wrong. Merit retention allows voters to consider whether the justices should remain on the court and are ethical, impartial and qualified. The Times editorial board has disagreed with some positions in particular cases taken by Canady and Polston, the most conservative justices on the court. But merit retention is not about voicing disagreement with some of the court's opinions.

On the merit retention questions for Florida Supreme Court Justices Charles Canady, Jorge Labarga and Ricky Polston, the Tampa Bay Times recommends voting yes.

Comments
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17