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Martin Dyckman: End the ‘shame’ by restoring voting rights to ex-felons

In a pair of Context Florida columns titled, “The Shame of Florida,” Darryl Paulson has documented how Florida infamously leads the nation in the number of people—1.7-million—who are permanently barred from voting as ex-felons regardless of whether they are good citizens now. In Florida, as in Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee and other former Confederate states, these bans were imposed or radically expanded in the aftermath of Reconstruction with the plain intent of suppressing black votes.

More than 10 percent of voting-age Floridians are victimized by this provision of Florida’s Constitution — among blacks, however, 23 percent are.

“Studies have shown that blacks are more likely to be arrested than whites for the same felony issue, and blacks are much more likely to be convicted than whites for the same felony offense,” wrote Paulson, an emeritus professor of government at the University of South Florida Bayboro.

Not until after the Civil War did Florida ban all voters with felony convictions.

The federal courts have been willfully blind to Florida’s massive violation of our must fundamental civil rights.

It’s time to test the courts again.

The racist motive and subsequent effects were argued in a class-action challenge to Florida’s practice in a 2005 case styled Johnson V. Bush. The plaintiffs asserted violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, overturned a panel that had ruled against the state. Rosemary Barkett, a former justice of the Florida Supreme Court, dissented from the erroneous 10-2 decision. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.

The Eleventh Circuit’s rationale was a case of deliberate judicial myopia. It took the absence of recorded racist statements from the 1860 debates as an excuse to ignore the obvious circumstantial evidence that racism was the whole story.

The majority then reasoned that even had that been so, it was laundered clean by constitutional revisions in the Twentieth Century.

That was ivory tower nonsense.

The 1965 revision commission whose work led to Florida’s present Constitution three years later did not have even one minority member. There were none in the Legislature, where the political climate in Tallahassee was still segregationist.

A detailed history posted by the Brennan Center for Justice notes that eight of the thirty-seven members of that revision commission also served on the notorious Johns Committee, a joint legislative panel that was set up to attack civil rights organizations.

One member of the revision commission, Richard A. Pettigrew, tried to modify the constitutional ban to let the Legislature decide what crimes, if any, should disqualify a voter. Pettigrew, a Miami legislator and future House speaker, was defeated in a committee chaired by a Johns Committee member who was a militant segregationist.

There have been two more revision commissions, in 1978 and 1998, but neither took up the subject.

“I am embarrassed to say this was not discussed,” Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, the 1978 chairman, wrote to me recently.

Since those years, circumstances have changed so profoundly as to make the case that Florida is deliberately wielding its historic ban to violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The governors and Cabinet, sitting as the state clemency board, had been regularly considering applications for restoration of civil rights.

Gov. Charlie Crist accelerated the process in 2007, so much so that about 155,000 people regained their voting rights during his four-year term.

But in 2011, his successor Rick Scott and the new attorney general, Pam Bondi, made the rules so regressive—among other things, by imposing a five-year waiting period—that only 2,200 applications were approved during the first five and a half years of his term. The cumbersome process discourages would-be applicants, and that is not likely just coincidence.

What Scott, Bondi, and clemency board members Adam Putnam and Jeff Atwater did to the process makes the new case that belongs in a federal court. The governor and Cabinet are deliberately — deliberately — wielding the Florida Constitution as a blunt weapon of voter suppression, and they’re doing it in a way that had not been done before. The original intent of disenfranchisement no longer matters. It is the present glaring intent that does.

In the same year that they sabotaged the clemency rules, Scott and Bondi approved legislation that removed felony convictions as an automatic bar to licensing in certain regulated professions.

In other words, ex-felons can be trusted with other people’s money and property, but not with the vote.

There’s no sense in such a distinction except for the obvious: ex-felons are disproportionately black, and blacks vote disproportionately Democratic.

This is not an issue that only Democrats care about. Paulson is a Republican; he points out that the Koch Foundation and the International Association of Chiefs of Police also support civil rights restoration, and they are hardly liberal voices.

The Constitutional Revision Commission that will meet next year ought to right the old wrong, but the prospects are poor, since Scott and Republican legislative leaders will be appointing nearly all the members.

An initiative pending Supreme Court approval to be placed on the 2018 ballot would restore voting rights automatically to everyone who completes a prison or probation sentence except in cases of murder and sex crimes. But even if the court says yes, as it should, the sponsors have a long way to go toward enough signatures to get it on the ballot.

Interestingly enough, the court’s deadline for objections to the initiative passed without any being filed. There was, however, a powerful memorandum in support from Ion Sancho, Leon County’s retiring supervisor of elections, and his Broward County counterpart, Dr. Brenda Snipes.

“The scope of felony disenfranchisement laws does not befit our great democracy,” they told the court, adding that no other democracy bares voters for life. “People who have completed their sentences and reentered society are presumably working and paying taxes in communities throughout the state. These individuals, like other Floridians, should be accorded the basic rights of citizenship,” they said.

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the newspaper now known as the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in North Carolina, where anyone is allowed to register and vote upon completing all terms of a felony sentence.

Broward judge to be publicly reprimanded Feb. 7

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday “commanded” a Broward judge to come to Tallahassee Feb. 7 for a public reprimand.

Circuit Judge John Patrick Contini also must write a letter of apology, undergo judicial mentoring, complete a mental health program, and pay administrative costs, according to a court order.

He was brought up on judicial misconduct charges last year.

Contini was accused of sending a document on how to argue for lesser sentences to an assistant public defender without giving a copy to prosecutors. Contini himself is a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney.

When prosecutors sought to disqualify him from pending criminal cases because of an appearance of bias, he rejected the request and lashed out against them, making “disparaging, demeaning remarks,” an investigative report says.

They included his wanting to “spank” and “ream out” the lawyers who sought to disqualify him. Contini later admitted he “‘lost it’ in court, ‘overreacted,’ ‘personified incivility,’ and had ‘no excuse’ for his comments.”

A Judicial Qualifications Commission panel noted that “Contini was a new judge, who … made a series of significant missteps.” It also said he “immediately accepted responsibility for his conduct, expressed sincere remorse, and apologized.”

The Supreme Court, however, noted that his “conduct was as improper as it was rude.”

Though he’s practiced law for 31 years, Contini was only elected judge in 2014 and on the bench since January 2015, the report says. He was given a hefty docket of more than 1,000 cases.

Florida Supreme Court rejects shift in insurance claims law

The Florida Supreme Court has overturned a lower-court ruling that would have made it harder for policyholders to collect on insurance policies when there is more than one cause for their losses.

At issue in Sebo v. American Home Assurance Co. was competing doctrines for resolving claims under all-risk policies in those circumstances.

Under the so-called “efficient proximate cause” theory, if the first cause of any damage — say, construction defects — isn’t explicitly covered, nothing else is.

Under the “concurrent law doctrine,” however, a homeowner can collect if any of the damage is covered.

“We conclude that when independent perils converge and no single cause can be considered the sole or proximate cause, it is appropriate to apply the concurring cause doctrine,” Justice James E.C. Perry Thursday wrote for a 5-2 majority.

That’s been the law in Florida for 30 years, said Richard Hugh Lumpkin of Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin in Miami, who filed an amicus brief on behalf of United Policyholders, a consumer group.

Still, the 2nd District Court of Appeal applied the stricter policy in ruling on the case. Other states, including California, use that standard.

“What the Florida Supreme Court is saying is that you apply the policy as written. There’s nothing new or different about that,” Lumpkin said.

“But if the efficient proximate cause doctrine had been made law in Florida, that would have changed things — made it more difficult for folks in Florida to collect their due.”

It also would have injected uncertainty into the insurance industry — both for policyholders and their insurers, he said.

“Let’s just say we breathed a sigh of relief” at the high court’s ruling, Lumpkin said.

The case involved a home in Naples, insured for $8 million, that had to be torn down after design and construction defects led to damage from rainstorms and Hurricane Wilma in 2005, according to court records.

Perry wrote that because the insurer “did not explicitly avoid applying the (concurrent law doctrine), we find that the plain language of the policy does not preclude recovery in this case.”

During Supreme Court interview, Larry Metz discloses he has Parkinson’s

The third round of interviews of Florida Supreme Court applicants on Monday brought several revelations, including state Rep. Larry Metz’s disclosure that he has Parkinson’s disease.

Metz, a Yalaha Republican, shared his diagnosis with members of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission at the end of his interview.

“I don’t think it’s an issue,” Metz told the panel, adding he is not on medication for the condition. “But I did not want to not mention it.”

Parkinson’s is a “chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time,” according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

It’s caused when certain nerve cells in the brain die. There is no cure, although the symptoms can be managed through medication.

The disease, which has an unknown cause, often manifests through trembling of the hands, legs and jaw.

The late U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno had the illness, as does actor Michael J. Fox. Nearly 1 million people in the U.S. have Parkinson’s disease, according to the foundation.

The third round included Metz, Chief Judge C. Alan Lawson of the 5th District Court of Appeal and Circuit Judge Michelle T. Morley of Sumter County.

The man Lawson seeks to replace, retiring Justice James E.C. Perry, is the same person who beat him in 2009 for the high court job, itself created by the retirement of Justice Charles T. Wells.

In his interview, Lawson spoke of the need to foster communication between the branches of government. Lawmakers have slammed the high court in recent years for opinions they say veered too much into policymaking.

Lawson used the example of his inviting then-House Speaker Dean Cannon to sit in on a violation of probation hearing. Otherwise, he said. the only interaction judges and legislators have is when they’re asking for money during budget meetings, “which isn’t the best in developing relationships.”

Lawson, as did interviewees before him, said he subscribed to an “originalist and textualist approach” in interpreting laws, favored by conservatives.

“In most cases, you don’t need to go beyond (the statute),” he told the panel.

Lawson’s only stumble may have been when Commissioner Cynthia Angelos, a former trial judge in St. Lucie County, asked him what his weakness was. Lawson couldn’t answer.

After joking he “should have thought of the question,” he said he was “prepared for this position, pretty uniquely and in a lot of different ways … It is my hope and belief to make a difference to the jurisprudence of this state.”

The judge, who has run the Boston Marathon, also said he ran for the Legislature while in law school, coming in third in a field of six for a Tallahassee-area seat. “In retrospect, I’m really glad I did not win,” he said.

Metz faces term limits after his current stint in the House. The former Marine has been one of the House’s stalwart conservative members.

He was the only candidate up to that point to walk around the conference table to shake all the commissioners’ hands.

Metz mentioned his years of public service, including on the Lake County school board, as motivating his application: “There’s a real sense of satisfaction … it’s about being something bigger than yourself.”

He also stressed his belief in judicial restraint: “You have to understand your role and responsibility” as a judge, he said. 

“Judicial power is both concentrated and broad … you have to remind yourself constantly what you are there to do, and not go beyond what you are supposed to do,” Metz said.

One commissioner, Jeanne Tate, shocked Metz by telling him they had gone to high school together. “It’s not that I’m worried I don’t remember you but I hope you don’t remember me,” he joked.

When asked whether there was a need for more “turnover” in the judiciary, Metz said he would keep an “open mind” to judicial term limits. Florida now uses merit retention elections, but no appellate judge in the state has ever lost such an election.

“One has to wonder, if the elections always produce the same result, whether they’re really working or not,” he said.

Morley said her judicial philosophy was not to “put a spin on a statute”: “The law needs to be interpreted according to plain language,” she said.

When asked about her mistakes, she admitted to holding a lawyer in contempt for a disagreement over evidence sharing between sides in a case, which she later realized was the “wrong way to achieve what I wanted to achieve.”

On “original meaning” in the Constitution, she was asked about the phrase “cruel and unusual punishment,” often used in the context of the death penalty.

“Human beings have found more and more egregious ways to treat each other that were never contemplated in 1789,” she said.

Surprises included her once being a member of the Lake County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse and her writing a letter to every Sumter County student who makes the honor roll.

The last of the interviews were scheduled to go through Monday evening. The commission will name six finalists for Gov. Rick Scott to consider.

Supreme Court candidates are all about conservatism

The first three candidates to be interviewed for state Supreme Court justice burnished their conservative credentials Monday afternoon.

The Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission began interviewing the 11 applicants to replace retiring Justice James E.C. Perry, who departs the bench Dec. 30.

The nominating panel will forward six names by Dec. 13 to Gov. Rick Scott, who will then name Perry’s replacement.

This is Scott’s first chance to pick a state Supreme Court justice, and thus the first opportunity to expand the high court’s reliably conservative voting bloc, now only two justices: Charles Canady and Ricky Polston.

“I generally care about two things,” Scott has said about judicial appointees. “Are they going to be humble in the process, and are they going to uphold the law?” The governor, like the conservative GOP House majority, is a believer in judicial restraint.

First up on Monday were Wendy W. Berger, a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal; Alice L. Blackwell, a circuit judge in Orange County; and Roberta J. Bodnar, an assistant U.S. attorney in Ocala.

The judiciary’s job is to “apply the law, to interpret the law, but not to make it,” Berger told the panel.

She may have the most experience in death penalty cases, which now makes up roughly half of the Supreme Court’s caseload.

As an assistant general counsel, Berger was Gov. Jeb Bush’s point person on death sentences, helping him determine which cases were ripe for death warrants.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, based on a Florida case, requires unanimous jury recommendations before a judge can impose a death sentence.

But Berger told commissioners she doesn’t believe the Hurst ruling should be retroactive: “That would open a large amount of floodgates we don’t need to see.”

Asked about professionalism, she said dissenting from a majority opinion should mean “you can disagree without being disagreeable.”

She quickly added, “You can be open minded to other points of view, but if they’re outside the law, I’m not going to agree for the sake of collegiality.”

Berger also played up her trial court experience as a circuit judge, saying “if you want to call balls and strikes, you need to have played the game.”

Blackwell, a judicial appointee of Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, played defense early and often, mentioning her “conservative judicial philosophy” and saying she was “not an activist judge.”

The judge played up her rural South Carolina upbringing – “You can probably hear it in my voice” – and said she worked her way through school as a church organist.

She was 34 when she first applied to be a judge, and said she was the second youngest person to become a judge when appointed in 1991. Blackwell followed the footsteps of her “Uncle Joe,” a judge who held the Bible at her swearing-in.

Blackwell said she follows the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s concept of ‘originalism’: “What do the words mean that are in the law?”

She distinguished herself from activists who say what the law “ought to be.”

“That’s not a judge’s job,” Blackwell told the panel. “I don’t legislate from the bench.”

But, she was asked, what about when courts, even the Supreme Court, have misinterpreted a law? 

“I hope I would have the intellectual and moral fortitude to say we got it wrong and we need to change it,” she said.

Bodnar, unlike Berger and Blackwell, sat for her interview with no notes. She too espoused restraint in interpreting the law, saying judges should “apply the law” and not “invent it.”

“The law belongs the people,” she said, a theme she revisited later in her interview. “Start with the law, never start with instinct.”

Bodnar, however, bristled at a question on her lack of judicial experience, referring to her analytical skill in a brief she submitted as a writing sample.

“I wrote that brief, and it’s good,” she told commissioners. “I don’t need to have put on a black robe.”

She also was asked about her long-standing “BV” Martindale-Hubbell peer rating, which she’s had for 23 years. “BV” is similar to a silver medal; “AV” is considered the gold standard.

Bodnar smiled, saying the only reason she sought a rating in the first place was to ensure a pay bump from her then-boss, state Attorney General Bob Butterworth. Getting rated or getting published was the only way he’d give a raise, she said.

Finally, when asked about a right to bear arms, Bodnar said she “believe(s) in a personal right to bear arms,” adding that she has a concealed carry permit.

The interviews, which are taking place in Orlando, continue through the afternoon and are being livestreamed by The Florida Channel.

flowers florist

Florist wants Supreme Court to take up tax decision

A Florida-based florist is asking the nation’s highest court to review a state Supreme Court sales-tax decision.

American Business USA Corp. filed its petition with the U.S. Supreme Court last month, dockets show.

The state’s Department of Revenue was due to file a response next Monday but the deadline has now been moved to Jan. 12.

The state’s high court had ruled that Florida can impose a sales tax on the web-based florist for flowers sold to out-of-state customers and delivered outside of Florida.

The court overturned an appeals court decision that said the Department of Revenue couldn’t collect taxes from the company’s out-of-state sales.

Because the Palm Beach County-based business has a physical presence in the state and does business within Florida, that’s enough of a tie to the state to make all its sales taxable – regardless if they originated outside of Florida.

The company has argued it shouldn’t be responsible for sales tax on orders from out-of-state customers for flowers that were grown and delivered outside of Florida.

Background from The Associated Press, reprinted with permission. 

Supreme Court candidate interviews will be live streamed

The Florida Channel plans to live stream the interviews of candidates for an opening on the Florida Supreme Court.

The interviews are open to the public, but they will be held in Orlando next Monday, instead of Tallahassee.

They’ll be at the offices of the GrayRobinson law firm, where Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission chair Jason Unger is a shareholder.

The commission previously voted to interview all 11 applicants for the vacancy on the court created by the December retirement of Justice James E.C. Perry,

The interview schedule is:

Noon-12:30 p.m. – Wendy W. Berger, a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal.
12:30-1 p.m.– Alice L. Blackwell, a circuit judge in Orange County.
1:00-1:30 p.m. – Roberta J. Bodnar, an assistant U.S. attorney in Ocala.
1:30-1:45 p.m. – break
1:45-2:15 p.m. – Dan Gerber, an Orlando civil-trial defense attorney.
2:15-2:45 p.m. – Sylvia Grunor, a Central Florida trial lawyer.
2:45-3:15 p.m. – Brad King, state attorney of the 5th Judicial Circuit.
3:15-3:30 p.m. – break
3:30-4 p.m.– C. Alan Lawson, the chief judge of the 5th District Court of Appeal.
4:00-4:30 – Larry Metz, a Republican state representative from Yalaha.
4:30-5 p.m.  Michelle T. Morley, a circuit judge in Sumter County.
5-5:15 p.m. – break
5:15-5:45 p.m. – Michael J. Rudisill, a circuit judge in Seminole County.
5:45-6:15 p.m. – Patricia L. Strowbridge, a circuit judge in Osceola County.

The nominating panel will forward six names by Dec. 13 to Gov. Rick Scott, who will then name Perry’s replacement. This is Scott’s first chance to pick a state Supreme Court justice.

In Florida, justices are picked through a “merit selection” process, beginning with a nonpartisan, nine-member commission that reviews and evaluates applicants.

Because Perry represented the state’s 5th appellate district, applicants must be from that area, which includes Brevard, Citrus, Flagler, Hernando, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter, and Volusia counties.

The commission also invited written comment on any of the applicants. Comments should be sent via email to Unger at jason.unger@gray-robinson.com.

Commission will interview all Supreme Court applicants

The Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission on Monday voted to interview all 11 applicants for a vacancy on the court.

The interviews, open to the public, will be held in Orlando Nov. 28, starting around noon and likely lasting through 7 p.m., said Jason Unger, the commission’s chair. The panel held a brief organizational conference call on Monday morning.

The interviewees are:

— Judge Wendy W. Berger of the 5th District Court of Appeal.

— Circuit Judge Alice L. Blackwell of Orange County.

— Assistant U.S. attorney Roberta J. Bodnar of the Middle District of Florida.

— Orlando civil-trial defense attorney Dan Gerber.

Sylvia Grunor, a Central Florida trial lawyer.

— State Attorney Brad King of the 5th Judicial Circuit.

— Chief Judge C. Alan Lawson of the 5th District Court of Appeal.

— Republican state Rep. Larry Metz of Yalaha.

— Circuit Judge Michelle T. Morley of Sumter County.

— Circuit Judge Michael Rudisill of the 18th Judicial Circuit.

— Circuit Judge Patricia Strowbridge of Osceola County.

The opening was created by the pending retirement of Justice James E.C. Perry, who will leave the bench at the end of the year.

Gov. Rick Scott will name Perry’s replacement, his first chance to pick a state Supreme Court justice.

In Florida, justices are picked through a “merit selection” process, beginning with a nonpartisan, nine-member commission that reviews and evaluates applicants.

The governor appoints five members, however, and The Florida Bar “sends nominations to the governor to fill the remaining four spots,” according to the Bar’s website.

For example, the Supreme Court commission includes attorney Jesse Panuccio, Scott’s former head of the Department of Economic Opportunity; Fred Karlinsky, a lawyer and insurance lobbyist with close ties to the governor; and Daniel Nordby, the former general counsel to the Florida House of Representatives.

“These Judicial Nominating Commissions (JNCs) then submit three to six names of the most highly qualified applicants to the governor, who must make a final selection from the list,” the Bar’s website says.

Scott, though, has asked for a full slate of six names. That list is due to the governor’s office by Dec. 13.

Because Perry represented the state’s 5th appellate district, applicants be from that area, which includes Brevard, Citrus, Flagler, Hernando, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter, and Volusia counties.


Updated 11:45 a.m. — The official notice for the interviews has been released, reprinted in part below:

Interviews will be conducted on Nov. 28, 2016, at the offices of GrayRobinson, P.A., 301 E. Pine St., Suite 1400, Orlando.

INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
Monday, Nov. 28, 2016
Noon-12:30 Berger, Wendy W.
12:30-1:00 Blackwell, Alice L.
1:00-1:30 Bodnar, Roberta J.
1:30-1:45 break
1:45-2:15 Gerber, Daniel J.
2:15-2:45 Grunor, Sylvia A.
2:45-3:15 King, Bradley E.
3:15-3:30 break
3:30-4:00 Lawson, C. Alan
4:00-4:30 Metz, Larry E.
4:30-5:00 Morley, Michelle T.
5:00-5:15 break
5:15-5:45 Rudisill, Michael J.
5:45-6:15 Strowbridge, Patricia L.

The JNC welcomes comments on the qualifications of any of the applicants. Those wishing to comment should do so by email to Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission Chair Jason L. Unger at jason.unger@gray-robinson.com.

The members of the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission are: Chair Jason L. Unger, Tallahassee; Vice Chair Nilda R. Pedrosa, Coral Gables; Cynthia G. Angelos, Port St. Lucie; Fred Karlinsky, Fort Lauderdale; Daniel E. Nordby, Tallahassee; Jesse M. Panuccio, Miami; Israel U. Reyes, Coral Gables; Hala A. Sandridge, Tampa; Jeanne T. Tate, Tampa.

11 apply for Florida Supreme Court

As of the Friday deadline, 11 people had applied to become the next justice of the Florida Supreme Court. 

The last application received was from Circuit Judge Michael Joseph Rudisill of the 18th Judicial Circuit for Brevard and Seminole counties.

There, Rudisill replaced James E.C. Perry, now the justice whose December retirement is creating the Supreme Court vacancy.

Besides Rudisill, here are the other applicants that will now be considered by the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission:

— Judge Wendy W. Berger of the 5th District Court of Appeal.

— Circuit Judge Alice L. Blackwell of Orange County.

— Assistant U.S. attorney Roberta J. Bodnar of the Middle District of Florida.

— Orlando civil-trial defense attorney Dan Gerber.

 Sylvia Grunor, a Central Florida trial lawyer.

— State Attorney Brad King of the 5th Judicial Circuit.

— Chief Judge C. Alan Lawson of the 5th District Court of Appeal.

— Republican state Rep. Larry Metz of Yalaha.

— Circuit Judge Michelle T. Morley of Sumter County.

— Circuit Judge Patricia Strowbridge of Osceola County.

The commission will discuss the applicants in a conference call Monday at 9 a.m.

Its members are then scheduled to interview finalists Nov. 28 and submit six recommendations to Gov. Rick Scott by Dec. 13.

Scott then will name Perry’s replacement, his first chance to pick a state Supreme Court justice.

The commission advising him includes attorney Jesse Panuccio, Scott’s former head of the Department of Economic Opportunity; Fred Karlinsky, a lawyer and insurance lobbyist with close ties to the governor; and Daniel Nordby, the former general counsel to the Florida House of Representatives.

Because Perry represented the state’s 5th appellate district, applicants must have been from that area, which includes Brevard, Citrus, Flagler, Hernando, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter, and Volusia counties.

Larry Metz applies for Florida Supreme Court opening

Republican state Rep. Larry Metz of Yalaha, who face term limits after his current stint in the House, wants to be the next Florida Supreme Court justice.

Metz
Metz

Metz filed Friday morning, the deadline day for applying, said Jason Unger, chair of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

The opening was created by the retirement of Justice James E.C. Perry, who’s leaving the bench at the end of the year. The commission is scheduled to discuss the applicants in a conference call next Monday at 9 a.m.

Metz, a lawyer in private practice, was first elected in 2010 and re-elected without opposition to a final term this week.

He was just promoted to chair the new Public Integrity & Ethics committee under Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran. He previously chaired the Justice Appropriations subcommittee.

“Larry Metz has great judicial temperament and a brilliant legal mind,” Corcoran said in a text message. “He also understands judicial restraint and originalism and how important those concepts are to protecting our Constitution and our way of life.” (“Originalism” refers to judicial interpretation of constitutions and laws according to the intent of their drafters.)

The 61-year-old Metz, admitted to the Florida bar in 1983, could not immediately be reached for comment. The former Marine has been one of the House’s stalwart conservative members.

In September, he argued before the court in favor of a new evidence law he sponsored, one that toughens the state’s expert witness standard. The switch would align Florida’s courts with the federal courts, which follow a stricter test of allowing certain scientific expert testimony, known as the Daubert standard.

Metz also has backed measures that would stop Florida cities and counties from shielding undocumented immigrants (the “sanctuary cities” bill), and call for a “convention of states” to consider congressional term limits.

The other applicants are State Attorney Brad King of the 5th Judicial Circuit, Circuit Judge Alice L. Blackwell of Orange County, Judge Wendy W. Berger of the 5th District Court of Appeal, Circuit Judge Michelle T. Morley of Sumter County, assistant U.S. attorney Roberta J. Bodnar, Circuit Judge Patricia Strowbridge of Osceola County, Orlando civil-trial defense attorney Dan Gerber, and Chief Judge C. Alan Lawson of the 5th District Court of Appeal

Later Friday, the nominating commission also received the application of Sylvia Grunor, a longtime Central Florida trial lawyer. That makes 10 candidates now in the running.

Gov. Rick Scott will name Perry’s replacement, his first chance to pick a state Supreme Court justice. The nominating commission is scheduled to interview finalists Nov. 28 and submit six recommendations to Scott by Dec. 13.

Because Perry represented that appellate district, applicants must be from that area: Brevard, Citrus, Flagler, Hernando, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter, and Volusia counties.

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