Jacksonville attorney not giving up bid for bench

David Trotti continues court battle over Gov. Scott's appointment of judge

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After a divided Florida Supreme Court decided not to rule on whether Gov. Rick Scott -- or the voters -- could select a replacement for retiring 4th Judicial Circuit Judge Robert Foster, it seemed the case was closed.

But Jacksonville attorney David Trotti is not giving up his bid for the bench.

Trotti filed to run for Foster's seat before Scott announced he would replace Foster with Duval County Judge Lester Bass. Scott said he was entitled to the appointment because Foster made his retirement effective Dec. 31, four business days ahead of the official end of the judge's term.

Trotti took Scott to court over the appointment, and the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Scott, leading Trotti to take the dispute to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court initially agreed to rule in the case and heard oral arguments in October.
In the meantime, Trotti remained on the November ballot, thanks to a successful injunction, and no one signed up to run against him.

Trotti was certified as the “winner” of the unopposed Nov. 6 election by the Election Canvassing Commission, according to documents his attorney, Robert Slama, gave News4Jax.

“He ran unopposed and has been certified,” Slama said. “The governor’s office has the responsibility -- if they wanted to challenge his election, they had 10 days to do that. They did not do it. So by not challenging it, they conceded the election.”

But then the Supreme Court, citing jurisdiction, reversed its original decision to weigh in on Trotti's lawsuit, ruling 4-3 instead to toss the challenge, which effectively kept the lower court ruling in place that backed Scott's authority to appoint Bass.

But Trotti won't be counted out just yet.

He filed a lawsuit in Leon County court to be recognized as the duly elected judge in the circuit and asked the state attorney general to investigate potential election fraud in the case.

Attorney General Pam Bondi's office said it was checking to see if it had received the documents and couldn't comment further.

Bass said he hadn't heard about Trotti's latest move but couldn't comment anyway.

Bass, 55, of Jacksonville, has been a county judge since 2014. Prior to that, he served for 11 years as a magistrate and hearing officer in the 4th Judicial Circuit, and has also served as an assistant public defender, assistant state attorney and as an attorney with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

The Supervisor of Elections in Nassau County couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

For now, the chief judge overseeing the circuit, which includes Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, said he's acknowledging the governor's appointment -- until he's told otherwise.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.