Sarasota News Leader

10/19/2012

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Sarasota News Leader October 19, 2012 OPINION is on the federal Constitution, has worked to preserve the integrity of the state government. Now the state legislature is seeking to end that carefully crafted balance by swamping voters with a host of proposed constitutional amend- ments, misleadingly named and confusingly AMENDMENT 5: STATE COURTS The excesses of the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott have kept the state Supreme Court busy, striking down one initiative after another as unconstitutional. Stymied in their efforts to run amok, legislators have proposed Amendment 5, innocuously titled, "State Courts." It would diminish, if not eliminate outright, the independence of the judiciary as a branch of state government. First, the Legislature can overturn established court procedures only by a two-thirds majori- ty vote. The amendment seeks to reduce that to a simple majority, allowing the Legislature to micro-manage the operations and proce- dures of the state courts. Second, the amendment seeks once again to politicize the appointments of appellate judg- es and Supreme Court justices by requiring the judges' approval by the state Senate. Currently, as a result of a voter initiative that amended the state constitution in 1976, ju- dicial vacancies are filled by the governor, choosing from a list of nominees provided by a judicial nominating committee. Once ap- pointed, appellate judges and Supreme Court justices serve six-year terms before facing a "retention" vote by state voters. The change would subject judicial nominees to a lengthy political process that would focus less on legal qualifications and more on polit- ical ideology, ensuring that the court would function less in its prescribed role of indepen- dent arbiter. Taken as a whole, this proposed amendment would dramatically diminish the power of the courts to leaven the excesses of the legisla- tive and executive branches, setting the stage for dangerous adventurism by the Legislature and/or the governor. We urge voters to vote NO on proposed Amendment 5 on Nov. 6. In addition, we urge voters to vote to re- tain all three Supreme Court justices: Vote YES to retain Justice Barbara Pari- ente. Vote YES to retain Justice R. Fred Lewis. Vote YES to retain Justice Peggy Quince. worded. Specifically, were Amendments 5, 6 and 8 to pass, the careful system of checks and balances built into the state constitution would end, and the Legislature would become a virtual politburo in the state, with the power to rule by legislative fiat. Page 62

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