Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Judicial Proposals Surface in Capitol

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Judicial Proposals Surface in Capitol

Article excerpt

Last year, House Speaker Dean Cannon advanced a plan to dramatically reshape Florida's appellate courts, including splitting the Supreme Court into two separate branches.The proposal, which drew opposition from The Florida Bar and other legal groups, failed to win support in the Legislature.Cannon, R-Winter Park, who is in his last year as the House leader, said he did not plan to advance a similar plan this year.But that doesn't mean the debate over the judiciary is over. As lawmakers enter the second week of their two- month session, new judicial proposals are emerging -- although they are not as sweeping as the package that Cannon backed last year.One of the key battlegrounds this year will be the judicial nominating commissions, which review judicial candidates and make recommendations to the governor for their appointment to the appellate and trial courts.Last year, as part of Cannon's package, House leaders moved a proposal that would have removed The Florida Bar, the legal organization that represents some 90,000 lawyers, from the JNC process. It also would have removed all the current JNC members, allowing Gov. Rick Scott to pick their replacements.This year, a scaled-back version of plan to revamp the JNCs is moving in the House.Backed by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, the measure (HB 971) would essentially allow Scott to replace a majority of any of the nine-member JNCs.Currently, the governor appoints five members and another four members are appointed by the governor from a list provided by The Florida Bar.Under Gaetz's bill, the five direct JNC appointments by the governor would serve "at the governor's pleasure," meaning he could replace any of those members at any time. The four appointees, who come from Bar recommendations, would continue to serve their regular four-year terms.When the House Civil Justice Subcommittee took up the bill this week, Gaetz described it as a revised version of last year's JNC proposal, noting it would not impact any of the JNC members who had been recommended by the Florida Bar. …

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