Monday, November 12, 2018
Editorials

Times recommends: Yes on Florida Supreme Court retention

One justice on the Florida Supreme Court faces a merit retention vote in November, essentially an up-or-down vote of confidence allowing him to remain on the bench. Merit retention votes occur at least one year after the justice’s initial appointment 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 only justice up for merit retention is Alan Lawson, who was appointed to the court by Gov. Rick Scott in December 2016 to succeed retiring Justice James E.C. Perry. Lawson, 57, has served as a trial lawyer, circuit judge and appellate judge. During his term on the 5th District Court of Appeal based in Daytona Beach, he was twice retained by voters.

Lawson is a conservative judge, but merit retention is not about voicing disagreement with particular opinions. Merit retention allows voters to consider whether the justices are ethical, impartial and qualified and should remain on the court.

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, nearly 2,150 lawyers participated in evaluating Lawson on factors including quality and clarity of judicial opinions, knowledge of the law, integrity and impartiality. Lawson was recommended for retention by 87 percent of those lawyers.

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 finds Lawson has not faced formal charges.

On the merit retention question for Florida Supreme Court Justice Alan Lawson, the Tampa Bay Times recommends voting yes.

Comments
Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Hillsborough County scored a historic win this month when voters approved a one-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. The $9 billion or more it will generate over the next 30 years should transform mobility across the region and impr...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Deadly danger of wrong-way driving

Editorial: Deadly danger of wrong-way driving

The state is taking action to minimize wrong-way crashes
Published: 11/11/18
Updated: 11/12/18
Editorial: Makeover on the Pinellas School Board

Editorial: Makeover on the Pinellas School Board

Three veterans depart, clearing the way for new faces
Published: 11/09/18
Updated: 11/12/18

Editorial: Count every vote

Elections have two parts: You vote, then count the vote. Floridians did their part by turning out in record numbers in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Now it falls to local election supervisors to ensure that every vote is accurately counted.
Published: 11/09/18
Updated: 11/12/18
Editorial: A progressive shift in Hillsborough

Editorial: A progressive shift in Hillsborough

Tuesday’s elections should create a more constructive climate in Hillsborough politics, easing the social wars in recent years between Democrats and Republicans that too often resulted in polarizing urban and suburban constituencies.
Published: 11/09/18
Editorial: A smart plan for helping mom-and-pops

Editorial: A smart plan for helping mom-and-pops

St. Petersburg would limit the size of storefronts on two commercial corridors
Published: 11/09/18

Editorial: Good houseguests

A donation of furniture to schools shows how thoughtful little things can make a big difference
Published: 11/09/18

Friday’s letters: Making sense of the midterms

Friday’s letters to the editor
Published: 11/09/18
A New York Times editorial: A patriot returns

A New York Times editorial: A patriot returns

His sacrifice is why we vote
Published: 11/08/18

Editorial: Preserve diversity on the Florida Supreme Court

The court’s two women and one African-American are set to retire
Published: 11/08/18