If Charlie Crist should again win the Governor’s Mansion in 2014, he could have an unprecedented four additional appointments to the Florida Supreme Court.
The Florida Current reports that by the end of his second term, Crist could have appointed the entire court — all seven members. Only recently have judges to the state’s highest court are appointed; until 1974, they were elected positions.
Supreme Court justices face mandatory retirement after turning 70-years-old. If their term is more than halfway finished when they become 70, they can finish out their time on the bench. This means Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who will become 70 during the next gubernatorial term, will be forced to retire by January 2019.
Florida law is unclear about whether the governor would be able to choose their replacements, or the winner of the governor’s 2018 race would appoint new justices if the existing judges do not retire early.
Although Crist has changed parties, future appointments, as well as his appointments of conservative Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston, probably will not change the overall ideology of the court. Canady and Polston have often been the dissenting two votes in typical 5-2 court decisions.
This makes the next Governor’s race crucial for the future, much more than controlling the executive branch.