Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Florida’s Supreme Court is more conservative than ever. Here’s what it could do.

Fights over abortion, Amendment 4 and new congressional maps are all on a crash course with the high court.
SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
Members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in the Florida House during a joint session of the Florida Legislature. Left to Right are: Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, Barbara Lagoa, and Robert J. Luck.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
SCOTT KEELER | Times Members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in the Florida House during a joint session of the Florida Legislature. Left to Right are: Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, Barbara Lagoa, and Robert J. Luck. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Dec. 5, 2019

The following first appeared in the Buzz political newsletter, a weekly dive into the power, politics and influence shaping Florida from Political Editor Steve Contorno and the Tampa Bay Times politics team. To subscribe and receive it in your email inbox each week, click here.

If you’ve never heard of the Federalist Society, get familiar with it.

It’s an organization of conservative and libertarian lawyers that is reshaping courts in America — and in Florida. Here’s how.

Gov. Ron DeSantis was a member at Harvard. He spoke to the group in October. Its members fill the seats of the state’s judicial nominating commission, a powerful, behind-the-scenes committee that serves as a gatekeeper to judicial vacancies.

When it was time to pick three new faces for the Florida Supreme Court, DeSantis first ran his choices through the Federalist Society’s executive director. That’s how involved the organization is. The result is the most conservative Supreme Court in state history, one that is poised to make decisions that could change Florida forever. Here are some of the issues they will address in the near future.

Abortion. In 1989, the state Supreme Court struck down an attempt to make minors get parental consent for abortions. Thirty years later, abortion foes are hopeful a more conservative court will chip away at legal abortion. So they’re trying again. It failed last year. This year, it’s gaining momentum. Here’s what we know.

School choice. In another edition of “If at first you don’t succeed,” Florida Republicans were shot down by the Supreme Court in the 2000s when they tried to use taxpayer money for private school vouchers. DeSantis and Republicans passed a new voucher program this year that is on a collision course with the courts. Will justices side with Republicans this time?

Constitutional amendments. The fate of three proposed constitutional amendments lies in the hands of the high court. Attorney General Ashley Moody opposes all three. Assault weapons ban? Too vague, she said. Legalizing marijuana? Too long. Open primaries? Too misleading.

Will the court side with Moody, another Federalist Society disciple, or the petitioners who got these amendments on the ballot?

Amendment 4. Which Florida felons will get back their right to vote? The Supreme Court will decide. If you read the tea leaves, it sounds like they’re going to side with Republicans.

Gerrymandering. Florida lawmakers will draw new congressional and legislative boundaries in 2022. The state constitution says these lines can’t be drawn to favor one party. Who has protected this in the past when Republicans tried to push through partisan maps? The Supreme Court. Would this court do the same? Time will tell.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes holds up the Lamar Hunt Trophy after his team won the the AFC Championship game 35-24 over the Tennessee Titans on Jan. 19 to advance to Super Bowl 54. [CHARLIE NEIBERGALL  |  AP]
    The Florida House and Senate have started “informal discussions” about making it legal in Florida. But Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t want a “broad expansion of gaming in Florida."
  2. Victoria Arriaga, left, does a letter-matching activity during Priscilla Perez's pre-kindergarten class at West Tampa Elementary School. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
    The 148-page bill would lead to a new ‘grading’ system for prekindergarten providers, so parents can better choose programs for their toddlers.
  3. Gov. Ron DeSantis. [STEVE CANNON  |  AP]
    The competition, funded mostly by one of his biggest donors, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, creates a national competition.
  4. Democratic candidate for president Mike Bloomberg talks with Tampa Bay Times political editor Steve Contorno during his trip to Tampa for a campaign rally on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 in Tampa. [LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Why are health care and tuition so expensive? “We, the public, want things that don’t make any sense economically,” Bloomberg told the Tampa Bay Times.
  5. Awwwwwww.
    If the issue pertains to humans, forget bipartisanship in Tallahassee. Cats and dogs? Now you’re talking.
  6. Kindergarteners learn each other's names while attending Roxanne DeAngelis' art class on Aug. 12, 2019, while attending Hernando County's first day of school at Suncoast Elementary School in Spring Hill. ["DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The claim comes from a viral post on Facebook.
  7. Democratic candidate for president Mike Bloomberg visits Tampa for a campaign rally on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020  in Tampa.   [LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The presidential contender held his first Florida rallies on Sunday, campaigning like he’s already the Democratic nominee.
  8. Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the ​U.S. Conference of Mayors' Winter Meeting, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    It’s also the first visit by any Democratic contender this year
  9. Jimmy Patronis had been appointed to the state’s Public Service Commission by Gov. Scott.
    FDLE cited a ‘potential conflict,’ Leon County State Attorney Jack Campbell said.
  10. Gov. Ron DeSantis. [STEVE CANNON  |  AP]
    Florida students will read more classical literature and learn math differently, according to summary documents.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement