With evidence mounting against the impartiality of Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente, Gov. Rick Scott moved Monday to disqualify her from the case of League of Women Voters Florida, et al. v. Rick Scott (SC17-1122).
Scott said in a written 5 p.m. press statement his decision follows disparaging remarks Pariente made after the conclusion of the oral argument in this case on Nov. 1, 2017, captured on a live microphone and widely reported.
Additionally, the governor said, Pariente made the following remarks while campaigning for retention in 2012, “A vote yes will be a vote to retain me and the other two justices. … A vote no will give Gov. Scott the right to make his appointments, which will result in partisan political appointments.” See coverage on these remarks here and here.
It is that 2012 speech that compelled national government watchdog group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) to call for Pariente's disqualification in the case deciding Scott's appointment powers. This is what FACT Executive Director Kendra Arnold said in a statement issued Saturday:
“Judicial temperament that includes ... attacking other public officials in the midst of a political campaign as Justice Pariente has done, and now attacking members of the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission (open microphone comments) destroys public faith in the courts. Such behavior betrays that certain judges are biased and the citizens of Florida cannot get a fair shake, much less justice, before certain judges."
"... Justice Pariente has previously expressed her opinion that she did not want the governor to make judicial appointments –- the very issue in the case before the court."
The critical issue at hand is whether Scott or the next governor has the constitutional right to make judicial appointments. The court now is weighted in favor of liberal decisions -- Pariente, Lewis and Quince, all considered liberal. The three will be past age 70 next year and set to retire on the same day Scott leaves office.
Said McKinley Lewis, deputy communications director for the governor, “Governor Scott strongly believes that all Floridians deserve judges that are impartial, fair and non-partisan. Justice Pariente’s past remarks cast grave doubt on her ability to take an objective and unbiased position when evaluating Governor Scott’s authority in this case. She must be disqualified to ensure a fair decision.”
To read the motion filed by Scott, click here.