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Florida judicial elections, 2012

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Judicial Elections
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Elections, 2012
Judicial election dates

The Florida judicial elections consisted of a primary on August 14th and general election in November 6th.[1]

The filing deadline for judicial offices was April 16 through April 20, 2012.[1]

Florida judicial elections summary, 2012

  Supreme Appellate Trial
Total candidates 3 15 465
Unopposed candidates 0 0 276
Judges facing retention 3 15
Judges retained 3 15
Judges re-elected 0 0 296
Judges not re-elected 0 0 8
New judges elected 0 0 55
Partisan or Nonpartisan   Nonpartisan  

Supreme Court

JudgeIncumbencyRetention voteRetention Vote %
ParienteBarbara Pariente   ApprovedAYes4,934,29668.0%ApprovedA
LewisFred Lewis   ApprovedAYes4,899,66767.5%ApprovedA
QuincePeggy Quince   ApprovedAYes4,894,67767.7%ApprovedA

District Courts of Appeal

First District

JudgeIncumbencyRetention voteRetention Vote %
ThomasBradford Thomas   ApprovedAYes813,71464.5%ApprovedA
SwansonRonald V. Swanson   ApprovedAYes821,13964.9%ApprovedA
MarstillerSimone Marstiller   ApprovedAYes785,39761.7%ApprovedA
RayStephanie Williams Ray   ApprovedAYes837,70966.1%ApprovedA

Second District

JudgeIncumbencyRetention voteRetention Vote %
BlackAnthony K. Black   ApprovedAYes1,482,20474.0%ApprovedA
DavisCharles A. Davis   ApprovedAYes1,472,04274.4%ApprovedA
CasanuevaDarryl Casanueva   ApprovedAYes1,448,72972.7%ApprovedA
LaRoseEdward LaRose   ApprovedAYes1,454,75473.9%ApprovedA

Third District

JudgeIncumbencyRetention voteRetention Vote %
CortiñasAngel Cortiñas   ApprovedAYes554,44777.1%ApprovedA
FernandezIvan F. Fernandez   ApprovedAYes549,27277.2%ApprovedA
EmasKevin M. Emas   ApprovedAYes528,97875.0%ApprovedA
RothenbergLeslie Rothenberg   ApprovedAYes536,54675.8%ApprovedA
SuarezRichard Suarez   ApprovedAYes544,13077.1%ApprovedA

Fourth District

JudgeIncumbencyRetention voteRetention Vote %
ConnerBurton C. Conner   ApprovedAYes1,033,81977.8%ApprovedA
TaylorCarole Taylor   ApprovedAYes1,015,94677.8%ApprovedA

Circuit Court

For Circuit Court judicial elections, please visit: Florida judicial elections, 2012 - Circuit Court

County Court

For County Court judicial elections, please visit: Florida judicial elections, 2012 - County Court

Ballot measure



Florida Supreme Court, Amendment 5 (2012) was a Legislatively-referred constitutional amendment proposed by the Florida House of Representatives that appeared on the November 6, 2012 statewide ballot. The measure was defeated.

The measure sought to make a number of changes to the Florida Supreme Court, including:[2][3]

  • Adding three justices to the seven-member court.
  • Creating two divisions - civil and criminal - within the high court with five justices each.
  • Assigning the governor to appoint the chief justices for each division and two alternate chief justices of the entire court.
  • Requiring appointees to be confirmed by the Senate.
  • Granting the House access to investigative files of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission.
  • Setting aside at least 2.25 percent of the state's general revenue to fund the judicial branch.

The measure was supported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and opposed by some judges and the Florida Bar.[4]

The official ballot text read as follows:[5]



STATE COURTS.—Proposing a revision of Article V of the State Constitution relating to the judiciary. The State Constitution authorizes the Supreme Court to adopt rules for the practice and procedure in all courts. The constitution further provides that a rule of court may be repealed by a general law enacted by a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature. This proposed constitutional revision eliminates the requirement that a general law repealing a court rule pass by a two-thirds vote of each house, thereby providing that the Legislature may repeal a rule of court by a general law approved by a majority vote of each house of the Legislature that expresses the policy behind the repeal. The court could readopt the rule in conformity with the public policy expressed by the Legislature, but if the Legislature determines that a rule has been readopted and repeals the readopted rule, this proposed revision prohibits the court from further readopting the repealed rule without the Legislature's prior approval. Under current law, rules of the judicial nominating commissions and the Judicial Qualifications Commission may be repealed by general law enacted by a majority vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature. Under this proposed revision, a vote to repeal those rules is changed to repeal by general law enacted by a majority vote of the legislators present. Under current law, the Governor appoints a justice of the Supreme Court from a list of nominees provided by a judicial nominating commission, and appointments by the Governor are not subject to confirmation. This revision requires Senate confirmation of a justice of the Supreme Court before the appointee can take office. If the Senate votes not to confirm the appointment, the judicial nominating commission must reconvene and may not renominate any person whose prior appointment to fill the same vacancy was not confirmed by the Senate. For the purpose of confirmation, the Senate may meet at any time. If the Senate fails to vote on the appointment of a justice within 90 days, the justice will be deemed confirmed and will take office. The Judicial Qualifications Commission is an independent commission created by the State Constitution to investigate and prosecute before the Florida Supreme Court alleged misconduct by a justice or judge. Currently under the constitution, commission proceedings are confidential until formal charges are filed by the investigative panel of the commission. Once formal charges are filed, the formal charges and all further proceedings of the commission are public. Currently, the constitution authorizes the House of Representatives to impeach a justice or judge. Further, the Speaker of the House of Representatives may request, and the Judicial Qualifications Commission must make available, all information in the commission's possession for use in deciding whether to impeach a justice or judge. This proposed revision requires the commission to make all of its files available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives but provides that such files would remain confidential during any investigation by the House of Representatives and until such information is used in the pursuit of an impeachment of a justice or judge. This revision also removes the power of the Governor to request files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission to conform to a prior constitutional change. This revision also makes technical and clarifying additions and deletions relating to the selection of chief judges of a circuit and relating to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and makes other nonsubstantive conforming and technical changes in the judicial article of the constitution. [6]

In the News

Florida election recap, 2012

Florida: This year, Florida Supreme Court justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince encountered heavy opposition to their retentions from conservatives who claimed that they were too "activist" in their rulings. However, the judges prevailed, and were all retained with approximately 67-68 percent of votes in their favor.

In the District Courts of Appeal, all 15 judges running for retention across four districts were successful.

On the trial court level, which includes the Circuit and County courts, many races had been decided in the Aug. 14, 2012 primary. Some new judges (non-incumbents) elected in the Circuit Courts this November include: Barbara Hobbs in the 2nd Circuit, Wes Douglas in the 3rd Circuit, Leticia Marques in the 9th Circuit and William Sites in the 10th Circuit. Additionally, a close race in the 17th Circuit between Laura Marie Watson and Julio E. Gonzalez, Jr., showed Watson in the lead with 50.9 percent of the vote, though we are waiting for official results to be certified before we deem it a true victory.

The County Courts saw some competition, such as Jim McGarity defeating incumbent Eugene C. Turner for the Collier County Court seat. Turner is a veteran judge who has served on the court since 1983.

In Flagler County, candidate Craig Atack was unsuccessful in succeeding his mother, retiring Judge Sharon B. Atack. His father also served on that court previously. However, Melissa Moore Stens broke the family tradition by defeating Atack with 51.1 percent of the vote.

The other non-incumbents who won new jobs on the County Court this fall were: Stephen R. Koons (Brevard County), Olga M. Levine (Broward County), Jim McGarity (Collier County), Michelle Kalil (Duval County), Frank I. Grey (Pasco County), Joe Boatwright II (Putnam County), Debra L. Krause (Seminole County), Bill Blue (Taylor County), Bo Bayer (Union County) and Christopher Kelly (Volusia County.

County Court seat leaves the Atack family

As featured in JP Election Brief: Highlights of the 2012 judicial elections on November 15, 2012

Craig Atack, a candidate for the Flagler County Court judgeship this year, was unsuccessful in succeeding his mom on the bench. Judge Sharon B. Atack is retiring from the County Court position she has held since 1995. Before that, her husband William served on the court. Craig Atack would have been the third generation of his family to serve on this court, but he was bested by Melissa Moore Stens in a close race. With 51.1 percent of the vote, Stens was announced victorious.[7][8]

Florida retention election opposition heats up

The effort to stop the retention of Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince has ramped up. So far, three major conservative groups have teamed up to stop the retentions, citing "judicial activism" by the justices in various rulings. No judge has ever lost retention in Florida, but the following groups are hoping to make history:

  • Restore Justice 2012: This Tea Party-related grass-roots campaign started in 2010. It led the charge against the three justices' retentions this year.
  • The Florida Republican Party: The GOP fully immersed itself in the controversy after the party's executive committee unanimously voted to oppose the three justices. This is the first time a Florida political party has taken a position in a retention race, which are usually uncontroversial affairs.
  • Americans for Prosperity: Called a "super PAC" (political action committee), Americans for Prosperity is financed by the billionaire Koch brothers and has focused on TV advertisements against the justices.[9][10]

Arguments against retention:

The Florida Supreme Court removed the [healthcare] amendment from the ballot, denying us a voice and a vote on a historically important issue...Shouldn’t our courts be above politics and protect our rights to choose?[9]
-Television ad by Americans for Prosperity[6]
The court invented a way to give a confessed murderer the second chance at life this brutalized woman never had. Pariente, Quince and Lewis should not defend this decision. They should apologize for it.”[11]
-Jesse Phillips, president of Restore Justice 2012, on the Supreme Court's Death Penalty Decision[6]
These judges at times have acted in an activist manner and a manner that is not consistent with our beliefs.[10]
-Lenny Curry, Florida Republican Party Chairman[6]

Arguments for retention:

Judicial independence is very hard to create and establish, and easier than most people imagine to damage and destroy.[9]
-Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor[6]
This is about a group, a political party, that wants to take control over the third branch of government.[10]
-Justice Barbara Pariente[6]

Florida 2012 retention elections

As featured in JP Election Brief: 2012 Retention Elections on July 5, 2012.

In Florida, judicial retention elections for Supreme Court justices and appellate court judges are held once every six years. This year, three Supreme Court justices and 15 appellate court judges face retention.[12]

The Supreme Court race is proving to be especially contentious, as various conservative groups and other individuals have been fighting against the retention of Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince. The organization, Restore Justice 2012, is trying to oust these justices on the grounds of inappropriate judicial activism--pointing to a 2010 healthcare ruling and a 2006 death penalty ruling. In addition, the Southeastern Legal Foundation was arguing a lawsuit that accused the justices' of illegally using court employees to file their election paperwork.[13][14][15]

Florida Bar sheds light on retention elections

As featured in JP Election Brief: Candidates filing in Michigan, Kentucky, Washington and more! on May 3, 2012.

The Florida Bar, on April 30, launched an online voter-education program called "The Vote's in Your Court" to shed some light on the upcoming judicial retention elections. The Bar has found that many voters don't understand the retention process and often skip the judicial section of the ballot. The new web page provides information on the three Supreme Court justices and 15 Appellate Court judges up for retention this fall. For better or worse, voters have never removed a judge from office since the retention system began over 30 years ago.

Scott Hawkins, president of the Florida Bar, explained, "Democracy works best when there’s good information."[16] (Here at Judgepedia, we couldn't agree more!)

One issue facing Florida judicial candidates is their inability to explain their political opinions, due to the nonpartisan nature of the judicial races. They are also prohibited from explaining past rulings or stating how they may rule in the future. It is up to the voters to delve into a judge's history and determine whether or not they are fit for the bench.[16][17]

Members of Nominating Commission prohibited from participating in campaigns

As featured in JP Election Brief: Changing the rules in Florida and Nevada (and more!) on April 19, 2012.

On April 16, the Florida Supreme Court decided that the members of the Judicial Nominating Commission, who are responsible for nominating judges to the high court, will not be allowed to participate in any judicial races in the state. The new policies angered some of the commissioners, who felt stripped of their rights. Those in favor are hoping the rules will prevent politics from tainting the judicial selection process.

The JNC passed the following policies with a 5-4 vote:

  • No Commissioner, during his or her term of service on the Commission, shall contribute to or participate actively in any campaign efforts to retain or defeat currently sitting Supreme Court Justices and Appellate Judges. No Commissioner, during his or her term of service on the Commission, shall contribute to or participate actively in any campaign efforts to elect or defeat and candidate for County or Circuit Judge.[16]
  • No Commissioner shall seek to publish or permit anyone else to publish his/her status as a Commissioner with any effort to retain or defeat any sitting Supreme Court Justice or Appellate Judge. No Commissioner shall seek to publish or permit anyone else to publish his/her status as a Commissioner with any effort to elect or defeat any County or Circuit Judge.[16]

Tallahassee lawyer Jason Unger is opposed to the rules. He explained, "I don’t like the idea of prohibiting people on the commission from free speech...Frankly, it’s better to have it out in the public. If one of us widely supported someone it’s better to have that in public record."[16]

Rutledge Liles, a Jacksonville lawyer, supported the limitations, stating, "I personally am not going to involve myself in any campaign for the sake of the appearance of impropriety."[16]

Campaign to not retain kicks off in Florida

As featured in JP Election Brief: Heading south with news from Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Texas on March 15, 2012.

A fight seems to brewing around Florida's upcoming judicial retention election (typically a placid, uncontested affair) as an organized effort to oust incumbent Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince from the Supreme Court gains ground. The justices are running in November for the renewal of their six-year terms, which would otherwise expire at the beginning of 2013. The retention election is normally a shoe-in. No Supreme Court justice or District Court of Appeals judge has ever been voted off the bench since the state's current judicial selection process began in 1976. However, Jesse Phillips hopes to end that streak.

Phillips is the head of Restore Justice 2012 and is trying to remove the three justices from the bench. He explained, "I wouldn't want a judge thrown off the bench for one bad ruling. But what we've seen on the Florida Supreme Court is a pattern of judicial activism."[16] Specifically, the organization points to a 2010 ruling that removed the Florida Health Care Freedom Act from the ballot and a 2006 ruling that declared a voter-approved constitutional amendment regarding the death penalty unconstitutional.[18]

However, a number of legal minds are endorsing the justices' retention, including three former presidents of the Florida Bar, a former Attorney General Bob Butterworth and former Justice Raoul Cantero. Dan Stengle, the legal counsel for the retention campaign, is worried about the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which removes limits of corporate donations to judicial campaigns. "The issue in this campaign is, what is the purpose of merit retention? …Who knows how much money, under Citizens United, the special interests might want to spend to get rid of a judge."[16]

Another issue was raised by Sen. Alex Villalobos, leader of Democracy at Stake. He found that most of the voters lose interest in, or get confused by, the down-ballot races. "The people who go all the way down to the bottom of the ballot tend to vote 'No' because they think something must be wrong if we're asking whether this guy should be retained on the bench," he said.[16]

Regardless of the outcome, this is shaping up to be a hot race.[16]

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Florida Division of Elections, Calendar of Election Dates
  2. Daily Record, "New court reform proposal still draws opposition," April 8, 2011
  3. St. Petersburg Times, "House Speaker Dean Cannon scales back court reform proposal," April 7, 2011
  4. The Herald Tribune, "Proposal would split state high court," March 17, 2011
  5. Florida Secretary of State, "Amendment 5," retrieved September 25, 2012
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7., "No Close Call: Obama Wins…," November 6, 2012
  8. Law News Florida, "Candidates lining up for shot at Flagler County judge's seat," January 25, 2012
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Herald Tribune, "Republican Party aims to re-make Florida Supreme Court," October 2, 2012
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 ABC Action News, "Florida Supreme Court retention race becomes heated with accusations of partisan takeover," October 12, 2012
  11. Restore Justice 2012 website
  12. The Florida Bar: The Vote's in Your Court - FAQ
  13. JP Election Brief: Heading south with news from Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Texas
  14. IAALS, "Florida: Supreme Court Justices are in a hot race to keep jobs," February 21, 2012
  15. Tampa Bay Times, "Lawsuit filed to remove state Supreme Court justices from November ballot," June 26, 2012
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 16.9 The Miami Herald (blog), "Florida Bar seeks to publicize "merit retention" election for judges," April 30, 2012
  17. Florida Bar: The Vote's in Your Court
  18. Restore Justice 2012, Stop Judicial Activism
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