Florida’s Amendment 3 gives governor ‘prospective’ judical appointment power


By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog

MIAMI — Florida voters next week will be asked to hand the governor new power, regardless of which candidate wins the gubernatorial contest.

A BIG CHANGE: On November 4, voters will decide who sits on the bench: The outgoing governor or the incoming governor.

Amendment 3 gives the governor the right to appoint Court of Appeals judges and state Supreme Court justices, if they happen to be leaving office at the same time as the governor.

Critics say the move is more political than logistical because it strips an incoming governor of appointment powers and puts it into the hands of an outgoing governor.

For example, if Gov. Rick Scott wins re-election next week and Amendment 3 is approved by 60 percent of voters, the measure would give Scott the power to appoint replacements for three judges who are scheduled to retire in 2019.

Ballotpedia.org says state Supreme Court Justices R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince and Chief Justice Barbara Pariente will reach retirement age — 70 years old — in January 2019.

State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Hillsborough, an Amendment 3 sponsor in the Legislature, said the measure makes clear who can make judicial appointments.

Other Amendment 3 supporters agree, saying it will prevent “the possibility of legal challenges and confusion when governors change and judicial vacancies occur,” said David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce,

“Florida has made great strides in improving its education system, creating jobs and making Florida more competitive,” Hart said in a statement. “But Florida has been the subject of mockery time and time again due to our elections process. Amendment 3 ensures that there’s no confusion as to who appoints these justices.”

But not everyone thinks Amendment 3 is a good idea.

William H. Davis, a Tallahassee lawyer and creator of the campaign “Florida NO on Amendment 3”, said the measure gives a governor too much power.

“It allows a lame duck governor, who has no more accountability to the people, to appoint ahead of time, who the judges will be to fill the spots for the people whose terms expired at the end of the year,” Davis said.

He said the measure sailed through the state House without a public hearing, and that the vote was held on the last day of the session, nixing any possibility of public debate.

Amendment 3 would allow the governor to make “prospective” appointments to fill judicial vacancies from a list of three to six qualified candidates created by an independent commission. No legislative approval is required.