MIAMI — A Florida lawmaker is once again pushing a proposal that would place a two-term cap on Florida’s state appellate and Supreme Court judges, despite facing opposition from the state’s legal community.
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, has advocated for 12-year term limits on judges during a speech he gave in September after he was elected speaker designate of the House.
In a speech in December presented at the Associated Industries of Florida’s annual conference, Corcoran said that the “enemy” of the business community are the “seven individuals who meet in private and wear black robes,” according to a report on Court House News.
In February, according to flasenate.gov, a House bill that would bar retention of state Supreme Court justices or district judges who have served two consecutive six-year terms passed the Florida House of Representatives. However, it stalled in the state Senate's Judiciary Committee.
In a report by Court House News, on Dec. 9, the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors universally rejected support for judicial term limits, which is the same position the board took last year, too. According to the report, William Schifino Jr., Florida Bar president, said in printed editorials that the term limits for judges “should concern all Floridians.”
Corcoran's renewed efforts come after the Florida Supreme Court made decisions against policies that were supported by the state’s Republican leadership.
One decision in December 2015, according to Law 360, focused on how the Florida Supreme Court deemed the Legislature’s congressional maps unconstitutional after extensive litigation. In another decision, the court rejected limits on attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases, despite claims that it would raise insurance rates.
Corcoran has denied that the move was taken as a retaliatory measure, the Palm Beach Post reported.
During much of the Florida Supreme Court's rulings, it has had a liberal majority, which has played a large part in the decisions. However, in December 2016, Gov. Rick Scott appointed conservative C. Alan Lawson who replaced retired Justice James E.C. Perry, a liberal jurist, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel.
As the Florida Family Action reported, while this appointment doesn't give the Florida Supreme Court a conservative majority, it brings more balance to the court. However, liberal Justice Peggy Quince is due to retire in 2019, according to another Orlando Sentinel report, which could tip the scales even further.
Until that time comes, there are some who believe that term limits could have unintended consequences. For instance, there could be a drop in the number of qualified judges.
Philip Padovano, retired appellate judge from the 1st District Court of Appeal, said on Court House News that it would wreck the judiciary as there would not be people making a career out of serving on the bench. Instead, they might simply end up with “lawyers who couldn’t do anything better.”
Systems, however, are already in place to ensure that wayward judges don’t get on the bench, according to Shannon Carlyle, an appellate lawyer in the central part of the state.
Passage of the proposal would make Florida the first state to have term limits on appellate judges, Court House News reported.