From the Sunshine State comes news that the Florida Senate has abandoned a contentious proposal to split the Supreme Court of Florida into two divisions: civil and criminal. Under the proposal, Governor Rick Scott (a Republican) would have been able to appoint three new Justices to a newly created civil division of the Supreme Court while three sitting Justices appointed by Democratic governors would have moved over to the second division to handle criminal matters. Claims have been made that the proposal was simply a partisan attempt by Florida Republicans to pack the court with like-minded appointees. In other words, let’s just file this one under one person’s “judicial activist” is another’s “reasoned jurist.”
In reading up on the proposed split, I learned that it is part of a larger package of proposed changes coming out of the Legislature to overhaul the Florida Judiciary which will go before voters next year. Among other items, the bill permits the Legislature to repeal judicial procedural rules of the Florida Supreme Court. The bill also provides the Judiciary with full financing and, in light of a current $78 million dollar budget shortfall, would certainly offer some needed financial relief. Many Democrats, lawyers and judges though find it hard not to see this as simply a cynical move by Republicans of offering financial security in exchange for subverting the independence of the judiciary.