38ºF

Court asks Scott to weigh in on judicial fight

photo

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday gave Gov. Rick Scott’s administration until July 6 to file arguments in the latest round of a legal fight about replacing a Northeast Florida circuit judge.

The case centers on whether Scott should be able to appoint a replacement for retiring 4th Judicial Circuit Judge Robert Foster or whether the replacement should be elected by voters in November.

Jacksonville attorney David Trotti filed a lawsuit arguing that the replacement should be elected.

A Leon County circuit judge agreed and blocked the Scott administration from moving forward with an appointment process.

But the 1st District Court of Appeal kept in place a stay on the circuit judge’s ruling, effectively allowing the appointment process to advance.

Trotti, who tried to qualify to run for the seat in November, filed a request Monday for the Supreme Court to step in and block the appointment process until the underlying issues in the lawsuit can be decided.

Justices on Tuesday requested a response from the Scott administration by July 6.

“All we are asking this (Supreme) Court to do is what the circuit court already did: keep a temporary injunction in place long enough to allow this issue to be sorted out and decided once and for all,” Trotti’s attorneys wrote in the document filed Monday. “In other words, this petition merely seeks to maintain the status quo and stop the appointment process long enough to enable this (Supreme) Court to fully exercise its jurisdiction over the constitutional question presented by Mr. Trotti’s lawsuit.”

Foster was expected to leave office Jan. 7, 2019, which would be the end of his term, because of a mandatory retirement age.

But on April 2, Foster sent a letter to Scott making the retirement effective Dec. 31, four business days ahead of schedule.

The Scott administration takes the position that the governor’s acceptance of a judicial resignation before the start of an election-qualifying period creates a vacancy that will be filled by appointment, rather than election.

The 4th Judicial Circuit is made up of Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.