Amendment 5, placed on the ballot by the Legislature, would toss aside a system of selecting Supreme Court justices that has worked well for 40 years. The current system allows the governor to appoint justices from a list of nominees generated by the Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission subjects nominees to exhaustive background checks and interviews. Once appointed, justices go on the ballot for merit retention every six years.
The system has worked well since voters adopted the JNC system after a series of corruption cases tarnished the old politicized system of selecting judges and managing Florida’s courts.
Now, some legislative leaders, led by House Speaker Dean Cannon, want to reinject politics into our courts. It is a poorly veiled attempt at payback for the state Supreme Court rejecting a number of constitutional amendments pushed by the Legislature over the past couple of years; including one that would have allowed lawmakers to gerrymander the state’s legislative districts even more than they do now.
Amendment 5 would still give the governor the power to appoint justices from a list of JNC nominees. But the Senate would be required to confirm those appointments.
It also would allow the Legislature to overturn any court-imposed rule with a simple majority vote, rather than the two-thirds vote now required.
Finally, it would give legislators access to records of confidential judicial investigations, something that could be used to intimidate judges.
Amendment 5 would alter the balance of power among the three branches of state government that is, frankly, working well. Why fix what isn’t broken?
There is no need to inject more politics into a system that is serving the people with dignity and ethics. Amendment 5 is simply a cynical political power play by the Legislature to further tip the balance of power in its favor. Floridians should keep our courts independent by voting no on Amendment 5.