Justices asked to halt Scott judicial pick

Emergency motion filed in battle over Scott's power to appoint NE Florida judge

By The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - In another twist in a battle over Gov. Rick Scott’s authority to appoint a Northeast Florida judge, a Jacksonville attorney has asked the state Supreme Court to halt a Scott appointment while the case continues.

Jacksonville attorney David Trotti filed an emergency motion with the Supreme Court on Friday, a day after the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that Scott had the authority to name a replacement for retiring 4th Circuit Judge Robert Foster.

Shortly after the appeals-court ruling, Scott announced the he would appoint Duval County Judge Lester Bass to replace Foster as soon as the 1st District Court of Appeal ruling becomes final.

Trotti, who argues Foster’s replacement should be elected by voters, filed a notice Thursday that he would challenge the 1st District Court of Appeal ruling at the Supreme Court.

But with Scott also announcing the pending appointment of Bass, Trotti followed Friday by filing the emergency motion seeking a stay of the 1st District Court of Appeal’s issuance of a “mandate” -- the action that would make the appeals-court ruling final -- until the Supreme Court resolves the underlying issues in the case.

“The need for a stay could not be more urgent -- within hours of the First District’s opinion, Governor Scott publicly announced his intention to make an appointment as soon as the First District’s decision becomes final through issuance of the mandate,” the emergency motion said.

The Supreme Court has given Scott’s attorneys until 2 p.m. Friday to respond to the emergency motion.

The case stems from the upcoming retirement of Foster in the 4th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.

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 argues -- and the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed -- that the governor’s acceptance of a judicial resignation before the start of an election-qualifying period creates a vacancy that should be filled by appointment, rather than election.

If Foster retired on Jan. 7, the post would be filled by election. Trotti, however, argues the opening should be filled in this year’s elections.

News Service of Florida