Florida Bar calls for diversity improvement on bench

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The Florida Bar Board of Governors has agreed on 10 recommendations for Gov. Rick Scott to increase diversity among judges in the state.

The board unanimously approved a report Friday from an 11-member task force. The first recommendation was for Scott to fill 78 vacancies on the Judicial Nominating Committee with “diverse appointments.” The Bar also asked Scott to stress to the committee that diversity is a priority.

The committee constructs a list of possible judges for the governor.

“It is now time for bold leadership to stay focused and advance this issue,” Florida Bar president Eugene Pettis said in a statement. “It is significant that 50 years ago in St. Augustine, events related to injustices on the streets and in the court were pivotal in the breakthrough for enactment of the Civil Rights Act.

The report included a survey of Bar members on the committee and applicants that found the majority of respondents believe partisan politics play a bigger role in selecting those who serve on the panel than merit.

The task force also recommended a diversity officer to work with the committee on its appointment processes. It also suggested initiatives to recruit diverse lawyers to apply for appointments and the committee.

“The Governor thanks the Bar for its productive work and will review the recommendations carefully,” Governor’s office spokesman John Tupps said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.