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Jorge Labarga, other judges qualify for merit-retention election

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Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and a raft of other appellate judges have already qualified to run for this year’s merit-retention election.

The state’s Division of Elections posted the results online.

In order of district, here are the judges who will stand for merit retention:

1st District Court of Appeal (Tallahassee): Ross Bilbrey, Susan Kelsey, Lori S. Rowe, Kent Wetherell, Bo Winokur, Jim Wolf. 

2nd District Court of Appeal (Lakeland): John Badalamenti, Marva L. Crenshaw, Nelly N. Khouzam, Matt Lucas, Robert Morris, Stevan Travis Northcutt, Samuel Salario Jr., Craig C. Villanti, Douglas Alan Wallace. 

3rd District Court of Appeal (Miami): Edwin A. Scales, Linda Ann Wells. 

4th District Court of Appeal (West Palm Beach): Cory J. Ciklin, Dorian K. Damoorgian, Jonathan D. Gerber, Robert Marc Gross, Spencer D. Levine, Melanie G. May. 

5th District Court of Appeal (Daytona Beach): Jay Cohen, James A. Edwards, Brian Lambert, Vincent G. Torpy Jr. 

Qualifying for state offices began noon Monday and will continue until noon Friday.

The state’s appellate judges can serve virtually unlimited six-year terms, after appointment by the governor, until mandatory retirement at age 70.

They must, however, stand every six years for yes-or-no “merit retention votes.” No judge has lost a merit retention election since the system began in the 1970s.

The measure does not apply to trial judges. They must stand for election every six years, though few sitting judges are challenged.

Republicans in the state House this past session tried moving a measure (HB 197) that would have imposed term limits of 12 years for appellate judges.

It failed, but leadership promised that a similar bill would be back next year.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at

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