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Politics

Funds to Retain Florida Supreme Court Justices Near an 'Unprecedented' $1 Million

July 15, 2012 - 6:00pm

Three state Supreme Court justices whom critics have deemed judicial activists have amassed nearly $1 million to assure their retention in November.

With unprecedented contributions rolling in for a judicial contest of any kind in Florida, the three justices up for retention collectively picked up $455,310 -- the bulk from attorneys and law firms -- during the second quarter of the year. The combined number for Supreme Court justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince almost equaled their first-quarter totals.

The cash donations come as the Florida Bar is running a $300,000 parallel retention education campaign.

The justices have spent more than $240,000, mostly on campaign consultants and campaign staff, according to state Division of Elections records. Justices are required to appoint campaign finance committees because they are prohibited from soliciting contributions personally.

The anti-retention effort is being headed by the Orlando-based Restore Justice2012, an outgrowth of efforts of local tea party activist Jesse Phillips.
Supporters of the judges say the money is needed to prevent political influence from holding sway over the states courts.

Phillips, Restore Justice2012 founder, said the money being raised for the judges shows the courts have already been compromised by a special interest.

I dont have the luxury of every lawyer in the state writing $1,500 checks to three different campaigns, Phillips said.

Restore Justice2012 has filed with the IRS, but it is yet to complete state elections paperwork. It has raised about $57,000 from a single donor in Florida.

The three justices, the last Democratic appointees on the bench, are facing heat, as did two others in 2010, for being viewed as judicial activists, highlighted by voting to block a measure that would have allowed Floridians to halt the Affordable Health Care for America Act, better known as Obamacare, two years ago.

The three have long been the bane of conservatives, helping to strike down in 2006 a law passed by the Florida Legislature that created the nations first statewide educationalvoucher program, blocking legislation in 2004 that sought to overturn a lower court ruling to prevent a guardian from removing a gastric feeding tube from Terri Schiavo, and for ordering a statewide recount of the 2000 election.

Lewis, Pariente and Quince were appointed to the court by former Gov. Lawton Chiles, with Quinces appointment confirmed by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

No money was collected or spent for their retention in 2006, nor was any money spent during the Supreme Court retention votes in 2008 and 2010.

Individually, $147,372 was sent in for Lewis between the start of April and end of June, bringing his overall contributions for the year to $303,010.

Pariente drew $157,957 in the second quarter, putting her overall contributions at $306,499.

Quince landed $157,957 in the second quarter, bringing her total to $316,130.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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