TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission will interview more than four-dozen candidates who have applied to replace three justices whose retirements coincide with the end of Gov. Rick Scott’s term in January.
The interviews to replace justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince will take place on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 in Miami and on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 in Tampa, the commission announced in a news release Friday.
The commission will certify its recommendations to Scott on Nov. 10 “or sometime thereafter to give the governor and the governor-elect ample time to do their vetting and minimize the time that these three judicial vacancies remain unfilled,” according to the release.
A who’s who of conservative judges -- including former Republican lawmakers and appeals-court judges appointed by Scott during his eight years in office -- have lined up to try to join the state’s high court amid a legal battle over the replacements.
Scott, who is trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November and is barred from seeking a third term as governor, maintains that he has the power to appoint replacements for the three justices, who are leaving the court in early January because they have reached a mandatory retirement age. But in a lawsuit asking the Florida Supreme Court to intervene, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause argue that the authority to appoint the justices’ replacements rests with Scott’s successor.
Amid the legal skirmish, Scott directed the nominating commission to begin accepting and reviewing applications for the court appointments.
While it remains unclear whether Scott will be able to appoint the three justices, the outcome of the legal battle over the issue could shape the makeup of the Supreme Court for years, if not decades.
Pariente, Lewis and Quince are part of a liberal bloc, which now holds a slim 4-3 majority, that has thwarted Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature on numerous occasions since the governor took office in 2011.
News Service of Florida