TALLAHASSEE — Florida Supreme Court Justice James E.C. Perry was
set to retire in Dec. 30 of last year. But he still had some cases to
work on, so Perry was granted service as a senior justice.
That did not sit well with the speaker of the house in the Florida
House Speaker Richard Corcoran threatened to file suit in the
state Supreme Court, challenging the chief justice's action as a
violation of the Florida Constitution.
Chief Justice Jorge Labarga had issued an order allowing Perry to
work until September 2018. On Jan. 11 of this year, though, Labarga
the order and ended Perry’s service the following day. The reason
given was that Perry wanted to “pursue other things,” according
to Court Spokesman Craig Waters, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
In his lawsuit, Corcoran argued that by allowing Perry to work on
cases that essentially made him and eighth justice on the bench. The
Constitution does give
the chief justice the authority to assign a retired justice to
temporarily fill a court vacancy.
According to the Tampa
Bay Times, Corcoran also argued that after current Gov. Rick
Scott appointed Alan Lawson to fill Perry’s seat on the bench, “the
court could decide whether to rehear the cases that the court hadn't
completed before Perry's retirement or allow Lawson to receive the
briefs and then vote on the case.”
There has been a long history in the past 30 years of having
retired justices continuing their work after announcing their
retirement. But there might have been another reason why Corcoran
filed suit against the state Supreme Court, according to the Times
Perry had always been an opponent of the death penalty, and Corcoran
had continually been on the opposite side of the judge's rulings.
"There is no constitutional or legal justification for the
chief justice's assignment of retired Justice Perry to the status of
'senior justice' or to assign him as a justice sitting on active
cases before this court after retired Justice Perry resigned his
commission," Corcoran's suit said, according to the Times
Perry was appointed to the Supreme Court by then-Gov. Charlie
Crist on March 11, 2009, according to his bio page.
Perry was was appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush to the 18th
Judicial Circuit in March 2000, making Perry the first
African-American appointed to that circuit.