Third in a series
Amendment 5 to the Florida Constitution would make several changes that deal with the system of checks and balances among our three branches of government. These are constitutional issues that would preserve the judicial branch’s status as an independent branch of government, but would also increase the legislative branch’s authority over the judiciary. The amendment would:
Increase legislators’ authority to exercise oversight of the Florida Supreme Court and district courts of appeal. These courts are composed of appointees who often remain in office until they reach the retirement age of 70 or choose to resign. These judges are not subject to term limits.
Require Supreme Court justices nominated by the governor to be confirmed by the Florida Senate before they can take the bench.
Reduce the power of the governor and judiciary and increase the power of the Legislature.
Permit the legislative branch to repeal a court rule by requiring a majority vote instead of the current “super-majority” two-thirds vote. However, the Legislature must provide reasons for the repeal.
Provide expanded access by the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives (the leader of the legislative body holding the power to impeach) to review all records and files involving judges accused of malfeasance or misconduct. Such records would remain confidential unless the House of Representatives initiates impeachment actions.
One reason this amendment was placed on the ballot is because many Florida lawmakers have watched their legislation overturned by justices they believe have overstepped their authority. Many legislators have concerns about some of the Supreme Court’s rulings, which legislators believe were based mostly or solely on some justices’ own beliefs and policy preferences, rather than the rule of law or the constitution.
The portion of this amendment requiring Senate confirmation of the governor’s judicial nominees is similar in principle to the beliefs of the Founding Fathers, who required U.S. Senate confirmation for U.S. Supreme Court justices. And Senate confirmation of justices was required in Florida’s previous constitutions. Finally, Senate confirmation is open to the public, providing transparency to the process, unlike the current nominating process, which is closed to the public.
Opponents of this amendment contend that it threatens the independence of the judiciary and penalizes it for decisions legislators have disagreed with.
Florida’s chief executive should not have unlimited power to appoint any person he/she wishes as a justice to the state’s highest court. Overall, this amendment moves us forward to improve the check-and-balance system of state government, striking a better balance among legislative, judicial and executive branches.
Vote Yes on Amendment 5 if you want elected legislators to have more oversight over judicial rules, and if you want the Senate to confirm the governor’s nominees for the Florida Supreme Court.
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