H. Lee Moffitt: Courts should be off-limits to partisan politics
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 5:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 4:05 p.m.
In 1976, when I was a member of the Florida House of Representatives, I sponsored HJR 2762, a constitutional amendment for the merit selection and retention of our appellate and Supreme Court judges. The voters overwhelming approved the resolution and made this process a part of the Florida Constitution.
The resolution was supported by legislators of both parties, Gov. Reubin Askew, House Speaker Don Tucker, the League of Women Voters, The Florida Bar, and all major newspaper editorial boards, among many others. The arguments made then can be repeated now and are just as valid.
It was a bipartisan effort to shield judges from the influences of fund-raising and party politics. It should be a bipartisan effort to keep it that way!
To all Republicans, Democrats and independents across the state, this is one issue we all should agree on: Our courts should be off limits from the influences of partisan politics. This was declared loud and clear when the voters placed Section 10 in Article V of the Florida Constitution. Additionally, the legislature created Section 105.701, Florida Statutes, to prohibits judges from registering party affiliation; all judicial races are required to be nonpartisan under this law.
We should not be tempted to politicize our courts. Of course, there is nothing wrong about debating the pros and cons of court rulings, but our judges should not be tempted to decide cases based on politics rather than merits. Decisions must be based on honest interpretation of the law. We should demand impartial judges. We do not want them out raising money for campaigns. We do not want to see them with their hand out. We do not want them to be influenced in any way. They should be free from intimidation. Outside influences or the fear of partisan retribution should not deter justices from their primary mission of rendering fair and impartial decisions based on the current law. If anyone should become upset about a decision, change the law, do not attack a court or a judge that is merely interpreting the law.
I urge members of all political parties and independents to support and protect judicial independence. Our judges must be impartial and must be selected and retained on the basis of merit. The scales in the hand of Lady Justicemust remain balanced and she should be blind to the political whims of the moment.
H. Lee Moffitt
Former member Florida House of Representatives
Former Speaker of the House