Sunday, May 20, 2018
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: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18