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Judicial selection in Florida

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Florida
Seal of Florida.png
Florida Supreme Court
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   6 years
Florida District Courts of Appeal
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   6 years
Florida Circuit Court
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Florida County Court
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years

State court judges in Florida are selected through one of two methods, depending on the level of the court. Judges of the appellate courts undergo a process of commission-selection and political appointment (or the Missouri Plan), while judges of the trial courts participate in non-partisan elections.[1]

Judges' terms begin on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January.[2]

Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal

See also: Commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection

The 7 justices of the Florida Supreme Court and the 60 justices of the Florida District Courts of Appeal are selected in an identical manner. A judicial nominating commission screens potential judicial candidates, submitting a list of three to six nominees to the governor. The governor must appoint a judge from this list.[1]

Newly appointed judges serve for at least one year, after which they appear in a yes-no retention election held during the next general election. If retained, judges serve six-year terms.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • a qualified elector;
  • a state resident;
  • admitted to practice law in the state for 10 years; and
  • under the age of 70 (retirement at 70 is mandatory).

Selection of the chief justice

The chief justice of the appellate courts is selected by peer vote. He or she serves in that capacity for two years.[1]

Vacancies

If a midterm vacancy occurs, the seat is filled as it normally would be if the vacancy occurred at the end of a judge's term. A judicial nominating commission recommends three to six qualified candidates to the governor, and the governor selects a successor from that list. The new appointee serves for at least one year before running in a yes-no retention election.[1]

Circuit Court

See also: Non-partisan elections

There are 597 judges on the Florida Circuit Court, each elected via non-partisan elections. They serve 6-year terms, after which they must run for re-election if they wish to retain their seat.[1]

In the event of a midterm vacancy, the circuit courts employ the same commission-selection, political appointment method that the appellate courts use. Judges selected this way serve for at least one year, after which they must run for re-election.[1]

Like the appellate courts, the chief judge is selected by peer vote and serves in that capacity for two years. Judicial qualifications are also identical to those of the appellate courts, except that instead of ten years of in-state law practice, only five are required.[1]

County Court

See also: Non-partisan elections

Like the circuit courts, the Florida County Court selects its judges through non-partisan elections. County judges serve 6-year terms, after which they must run for re-election if they wish to retain their seat.[3][2]

In the event of a midterm vacancy, the county courts employ the same commission-selection, political appointment method that the appellate courts use. Judges selected this way serve for at least one year, after which they must run for re-election.[1]

Judicial qualifications are identical to those of the appellate courts, except that instead of ten years of in-state law practice, only five are required. In counties of 40,000 people or less, this 5-year requirement is waived altogether.[3]

Changing the selection process

If a county wishes to use a merit selection process instead of elections, it may choose to do so. The county must collect signatures from voters (equal or greater in number to 10% of the county votes cast in the recent presidential election) and file this petition with the secretary of state. The measure must then be approved by the majority of county voters.[3]

Judicial nominating commissions

In Florida, there are 26 judicial nominating commissions that nominate applicants for state court vacancies:

  • A statewide nominating commission for the Florida Supreme Court;
  • A commission for each of the five district courts of appeal; and
  • A commission for each of the twenty circuit courts in the state.[4]

Each nominating commission includes nine members who are appointed by the governor to four-year terms. Four members are attorneys appointed from a list of nominees submitted by the Florida Bar; of the remaining five members, at least two must be attorneys as well. Commissioners must be residents of the jurisdiction their commission serves.[4]

History

Judicial selection methods in Florida have undergone many changes in the last 150 years. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest.

  • 2001: The composition of Florida's judicial nomination commissions changes. The commission was previously comprised of three lawyer members appointed by the state bar, three lawyer or non-lawyer members appointed by the governor, and three non-lawyer members selected by other members of the commission. The legislature's revision dictates that the commission must now consist of nine members, all appointed by the governor (though four of the lawyer members must be chosen from a list submitted by the state bar). The governor is also required to consider the racial, ethnic and gender diversity, as well as geographical distribution, when making his or her appointments.
  • 1998: Circuits and counties may opt for their judges to be chosen through merit selection and retention, with the question to be put to popular vote in the 2000 election.
  • 1976: Under a new constitutional amendment, appellate judges are chosen through merit selection and retention. Governor Ruben Askew, Chief Justice Ben Overton and State Representative Talbot D'Alemberte were at the forefront of the reform effort.
  • 1972: A constitutional amendment is approved mandating the use of nominating commissions to fill judicial vacancies at all levels.
  • 1971: The Florida Legislature instates nonpartisan judicial elections. Governor Ruben Askew moves the state toward the merit selection method by calling for the use of nominating commissions in filling judicial vacancies.
  • 1957: The district courts of appeal are created.
  • 1942: Elections are reinstated for circuit court judges. Since 1868, all judges had been appointed by the governor with senate approval.
  • 1885: Supreme court justices are elected by popular vote to six-year terms.
  • 1875: The tenure of circuit court judges is reduced to six years.
  • 1868: All judges are appointed by the governor with senate consent. Supreme court justices serve for life while circuit court judges serve eight-year terms.
  • 1861: Justices of the supreme court are appointed by the governor with senate consent to six-year terms. Circuit court judges are elected by popular vote to six-year terms.
  • 1853: Supreme court justices are elected by popular vote to six-year terms.
  • 1851: Per legislative order, the supreme court is now served by its own judiciary, no longer sharing judges with the circuit court.
  • 1848: Circuit court judges no longer serve for life and are instead elected to eight-year terms.
  • 1845: Circuit court judges, doubling as supreme court justices, are elected by the legislature. They serve initial terms of five years but serve for life if re-elected.[5]

Selection of federal judges

United States District Court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[6]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links

References

FloridaFlorida Supreme CourtFlorida District Courts of AppealFlorida Circuit CourtFlorida County CourtUnited States District Court for the Middle District of FloridaUnited States District Court for the Northern District of FloridaUnited States District Court for the Southern District of FloridaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh CircuitFlorida countiesFlorida judicial newsFlorida judicial electionsJudicial selection in FloridaFloridaTemplatewithoutBankruptcy.jpg