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Don’t Tread On My Turf; Politicians Need To Butt Out of the Courtoom

Fri Oct 12, 2012 by on Florida Law News

The rule of law is the rule of law is the rule of law.

I am repeating this because the message is just not getting through. This country was built on a system which held the rule of law in the highest regard and protected our judicial system.

That is what I learned in 8th grade civics class, anyway.

Whatever issues I might have with our political process and the ways influence can be garnered, with a few exceptions judges have been allowed to focus on the law and nothing else.

Yet again and again the judicial branch is being brought down into the muck, by both politicians and big business, without any hint of shame or contempt. It is seen now as another commodity which can be used to exert power by the brokers who seek to impose their will.

Cases of partisan ideology being brought into legal issues are popping up with alarming frequency. It happened in Illinois, it is happening in Iowa, and now it is the case here in Florida as well.

In this case it is the Republican Party of Florida which is trying to have its way in the courtroom. If it was the Democrats who were meddling, I would be just as opposed.

The RPOF voted to oppose the merit retention of three Florida Supreme Court Justices. Why? Their statement is brief and and extremely vague, and claims there is extensive ‘evidence of judicial activism’, yet cites just one case where these judges voted to set aside a death penalty case.

It is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to inflame the masses.

The Republican Party of Florida wants a more conservative court, but doesn’t have the gumption to actually say it.

This comes after Rick Scott already tried and failed to trump up an investigation over the judges alleged use of state employees to file campaign forms.

Of course they forget to mention that all these judge were all appointed by Democrats, and that Scott would likely appoint more conservative justices as their successors. In other words, judges who will vote the way he wants them to.

It is clear that this is nothing more the GOP trying to stick their big fat nose into the Florida Supreme Court, a place political influence never has been and never should be allowed.

Even Pam Bondi, the Republican Attorney General in Florida, and a close ally of Scott, has refused to back the state GOP Party’s platform. As an officer of the court , for her to promote this platform would severely undermine her credibility.

These judges have done nothing other than the one thing they were supposed to do — their job.

Many times I have openly disagreed with them. But if I were to seek to make changes to the Florida Supreme Court, merely because I didn’t like their decisions, I would be making a mockery of the court.

And this is not the only assault on judicial independence by the GOP. Amendment 5, which is on the November ballot, would insert the legislature even further into the courts. Not only would the legislature be able to block a Supreme court appointee, it would allow both houses to repeal court rules with a majority vote, rather than the two-thirds majority that is currently required.

The Florida Bar, of which I am a member, has come down strongly against this measure.

Very rarely do I publicly take sides when it comes to political races or how I think people should vote. But I strongly urge you to vote to retain these judges and vote no on Amendment 5.

Not because I agree (or disagree) with the decisions these judges have made, but because a vote to not retain these three justices will allow any politician to declare open season on any judge they disagree with. That is why newspapers across the country, including the New York Times, have backed my assertion that merit retention must not be a partisan issue.

If these judges are not retained, or Amendment 5 passes, the rule of law will be essentially disavowed.

That is not something anyone should feel comfortable with. The judicial system must be allowed to remain an autonomous independent body, free from any undue influence.

To the Republican Party of Florida, I say is time for you to butt out of courtrooms.

From The Trenches,

Roy Oppenheim

Foreclosure Defense Attorney Roy Oppenheim

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