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NO on Amendment 5, a Political Ploy to Weaken the Courts

October 1, 2012 - 6:00pm

Like all of the 11 proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution, Amendment 5 was put on the ballot by the Legislature -- not the voters.

Amendment 5 would make the courts an arm of the Legislature and would destroy an independent judiciary which is the cornerstone of a democracy.

Amendment 5 is a power play by Tallahassee politicians to weaken the courts and give the legislative branch more power over the judicial branch.

I'm a Tallahassee politician, and I urge you to reject Amendment 5.

Most significantly, Amendment 5 gives the Legislature power to make the rules governing the courts and to reject the governor's appointments of Florida Supreme Court justices.

If passed, the amendment would give the Legislature power over the appointment of Supreme Court justices that the Legislature does not now have. The proposal adds a requirement that Supreme Court justices appointed by the governor must also be confirmed by the Senate in order to take office.

Well, one might say, what's so bad about that? Appointments by the president to the U.S. Supreme Court require the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. Why should Florida's process for the appointment of justices be any different?

We shouldn't copy the federal system because some 40 years ago Florida adopted a better system -- the merit selection and retention system. Currently, the governor appoints appellate court judges and justices to the Florida Supreme Court from a pool of qualified individuals who are recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commissions.

Following their appointment, appellate judges and Supreme Court justices serve a term of six years, at the end of which they stand for retention based on his/her record. And that's how it should be.

The merit selection and retention system was Florida's response to the corruption of the judiciary by the influence of politics over the quality and capacity of a judicial nominee to administer justice. It's worked for over 40 years; there's nothing broken that needs fixing.

Amendment 5 would weaken the judiciary in favor of the legislative branch.

And in doing so, the proposed constitutional amendment threatens the longstanding system of checks and balances between the Legislature and the judiciary -- on which all our rights depend.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, minority leader pro tempore, is the vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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