Amicus Briefs

Join the conversation and submit your statement in support of the Florida courts to: Amicus@FairandImpartial.com

Justices seek input on how to handle new redistricting rules

TALLAHASSEE — Faced with writing a precedent-setting ruling that could shape the state’s political lines for decades, the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday aggressively grilled lawyers representing Democrats and Republicans, asking them how to interpret the state’s new redistricting rules. Read more: http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/florida-supreme-court-hears-arguments-on-redistricting-ask-how-far-they/1217663

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Redistricting maps divide Florida Supreme Court

TALLAHASSEE — In a legal showdown that could reverberate for decades, a conflicted Florida Supreme Court grilled the authors and critics of new legislative-district maps Wednesday over whether lawmakers have followed new voter-adopted anti-gerrymandering reforms. Read more: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-supreme-court-redistricting-20120229,0,7089603.story

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Florida High Court Hears Redistricting Case; Lakeland Greatly Impacted

TALLAHASSEE | Lakeland played a key role Wednesday as a divided Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in the challenges to the results of the Florida Legislature’s once-a-decade redistricting process — the first under voter-imposed anti-gerrymandering rules. Read more: http://www.theledger.com/article/20120229/NEWS/120229171?Title=Florida-High-Court-Hears-Redistricting-Case-Lakeland-Greatly-Impacted-

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State Supreme Court justices hearing oral arguments on Florida legislative redistricting maps

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The state Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments over redistricting maps the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature has drawn for itself. Read more here: http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/fa0a5036ae0c48c79ce9134fa5c534e2/FL–Florida-Redistricting/

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Redistricting is creating rifts in the state’s non-partisan high court

Several normally tepid procedural rulings have sparked a flurry of divided opinions as the Florida Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments over redistricting maps. By Mary Ellen Klas Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau TALLAHASSEE — As the Florida Supreme Court opens redistricting arguments Wednesday over the Legislature’s proposed redistricting maps, recent deliberations of the normally subdued court have signaled an internal feud over how to handle the issue. Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/28/2666325/redistricting-is-creating-rifts.html

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Florida High Court to Hear Redistricting Case Wednesday

The Florida Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday morning in what could be a landmark redistricting case, after a series of shifting coalitions triggered a week and half of topsy-turvy decisions. Justices are preparing to hear a redistricting case for the first time since voters adopted the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts amendments in November 2010. So far, the court has seemed divided on when and whether to accept motions beyond an initial filing deadline — and … Continue reading

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MILLER: Rick Scott’s zero-percent tax

Florida governor’s pro-growth plan eliminates business levy Florida Gov. Rick Scott joined fellow state executives for dinner at the White House Sunday night. Before the rib-eye steak or Maryland crab mac & cheese hit the plates, the first-term Republican served President Obama with a letter about corporate taxes. Read more here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/feb/27/rick-scotts-zero-percent-tax/

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Drug Testing Bill Targets Florida State Workers, Excludes Lawmakers

A Florida state lawmaker is pushing a bill requiring state agencies to test their workers for drugs. But the bill wouldn’t mandate testing for all public sector employees; members of the Florida legislature would get a pass. Rep. Jimmie Smith (R-Lecanto), the bill’s sponsor, said he supports drug testing for lawmakers, but requiring them to pee in cups like everyone else would violate their constitutional rights. In an email to The Huffington Post, Smith cited … Continue reading

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Silencing Maneuvers: When the Florida Legislature Resembles the Politbureau

Republicans on the House Education Committee voted out a pair of education bills as Democrats bristled at a process that one compared to the Politburo. The votes on the two measures — one overhauling standards and finances for charter schools (HB 903) and another limiting the power of the Florida High School Athletics Association (HB 1403) in some transfer cases — came as the committee neared the end of its meeting time. Read more here: … Continue reading

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Chief justice: Iowa Supreme Court stronger after 2010 ousters

Court has had to rehear cases in which arguments were made before the ousted judges but no decision had been made. JOHNSTON, Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court had to rehear many cases after voters ousted three justices over a decision legalizing same-sex marriage, but it weathered the storm and emerged a stronger institution, Chief Justice Mark Cady said Friday. Read more here: http://www.thonline.com/news/iowa-illinois-wisconsin/article_388029c7-80d9-5fdd-921a-7af8e02a2a93.html  

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Activists Targets Florida Courts….Again

Activists are targeting Florida’s court system once again. Surprisingly enough, the activist in charge is accusing three Supreme Court Justices of alleged “judicial activism”.  He wants them removed. How come some always claims to be following the Constitution…except when it comes to the part that guarantees an independent judiciary? We saw it last year when the Florida House, firmly under the control of the Far Right, tried to water down the powers of the Florida … Continue reading

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Supreme Court divides 4-3 for second day in redistricting question

Florida’s redistricting battle has predictably divided the partisans of the Legislature. Now, it appears it has divided the non-partisan ranks of the state’s highest court. In a second divided opinion in two days, the Florida Supreme Court denied a request of the coalition of voters to file an amended proposed redistricting map as part of its brief. The court ruled on a 4-3 vote that the coalition of the League of Women Voters, the National Council … Continue reading

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South Florida court hears worker drug testing case today

Miami – A federal judge in Miami is hearing arguments on the constitutionality of Gov. Rick Scott‘s executive order requiring drug testing for thousands of state workers. A labor union representing government workers and the American Civil Liberties Union say the order subjects some 85,000 workers to an unreasonable search that violates the Fourth Amendment. They say drug testing should only apply to certain safety and high-risk jobs. Lawyers for the governor contend that workers … Continue reading

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Redrawing Florida

2012 marks Florida’s constitutionally mandated reapportionment of congressional and state legislative districts — a process always fraught with political tension. This year, lawmakers had a new challenge: two constitutional amendments, known as the “Fair District” amendments, that require districts to be compact and to make use of existing city and county boundaries as much as possible. Lines must provide for minority representation, and can’t favor political parties or incumbents. Earlier this month, the Legislature approved … Continue reading

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Supreme Court Justices are in a hot race to keep jobs

Near the bottom of the general election ballot, overshadowed by the hotly contested races for president and the U.S. Senate, three Supreme Court justices will face the voters next November in elections with far-reaching consequences for Florida’s future. The retention referendum deciding whether Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince are to keep their jobs for the next six years — or whether Gov. Rick Scott gets to replace them —appears likely to become … Continue reading

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Lawsuits flying over Florida’s redistricting

NPR – Audio Clip Monday, February 20, 2012 Florida’s legislature has released its new legislative and congressional maps as part of the once-every-decade redistricting process, and the lawsuits are already flying. Democrats and watchdog groups say the new maps violate constitutional amendments that require districts to be drawn without regard to political parties or incumbents. The process is likely to be tied up in the courts for months, but the proposed maps are already having … Continue reading

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Redistricting fight moves from Capitol to state Supreme Court

TALLAHASSEE — Attorneys for opposing sides in Florida’s redistricting fight submitted briefs to the Florida Supreme Court on Friday, with each urging the high court to take drastically different approaches in reviewing maps that redraw the state’s political boundaries. Attorney General Pam Bondi, along with the lawyers for the Republican-led House and Senate, want the court to give deference to the Legislature, avoid getting into the facts behind the maps and sign off on the … Continue reading

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Prison privatization proposal failure stings Fla. Senate President Mike Haridopolos

TALLAHASSEE — Last year, it took until the last day of the legislative session for Senate President Mike Haridopolos to get embarrassed. This year, it happened with three weeks left. In a rebuke to Haridopolos and his leadership team, a group of nine Republicans joined Democrats on Tuesday to defeat one of his priority bills: a revived prison-privatization plan to replace the one struck down last year by a Tallahassee judge as unconstitutional. The nine … Continue reading

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Access to the courts

OUR OPINION: There are creative ways to provide legal aid to Florida’s poor seeking justice in civil matters By The Miami Herald Editorial HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com The fund that pays for lawyers to represent poor people in civil cases has seen its budget tank 88 percent since 2008. That means the percentage of eligible clients who are turned away, now 20 percent, will certainly rise. This nation, a beacon of hope for so many around the world … Continue reading

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Ruling Suggests Broad Redistricting Case

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, February 21, 2012……With about a week to go until oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court over the state’s plan for legislative redistricting, justices are already fighting about how far the court can go in reviewing the new maps. In what could amount to a victory for opponents of the proposal for carving up House and Senate districts (SJR 1176), the court issued an order Tuesday calling for the Florida Democratic Party … Continue reading

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Two views: Don’t let political forces seize power over Florida’s courts

Imagine what would happen if a football coach handpicked referees for all of his games. Even the home crowd would be outraged. It violates the whole premise of fair play. Now imagine giving anyone similar influence over the rulings issued by a court of law. That is exactly what some of your elected leaders are seeking, and legislation moving toward approval in Tallahassee moves them closer to that goal. Some claim the changes in the … Continue reading

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Two views: Don’t let political forces seize power over Florida’s courts

Florida’s government, like the governments of other states and the federal government, is based upon three co-equal branches: legislative (the Florida House and Senate), executive (the governor), and the judiciary (trial and appellate courts). As an attorney who practices in our courts, I understand the importance of a selection process that assures judges are honest, fair and intelligent. As one of the senators who in 2011 stopped the controversial effort to split the Florida Supreme … Continue reading

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Florida justices revamp court leadership rules

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A divided Florida Supreme Court on Thursday approved new governance rules that one dissenting justice says will “polarize and politicize” the state court system’s leadership positions. The revamp consolidates the high court’s power over the system and strengthens the chief justice’s authority in many respects. It also does away with seniority as the sole criteria for the selection of the chief justice and chief judges of trial and appellate courts while setting … Continue reading

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Florida redistricting plans get final passage

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Democrats filed a lawsuit against a congressional redistricting map immediately after that plan and a second one redrawing Florida House and Senate districts received final approval Thursday from the Republican-controlled Legislature. The Senate sent the congressional map (HB 1174) to Gov. Rick Scott and the legislative plan (SJR 1176) to the Florida Supreme Court. Both passed in the House last week. The Democrats contend the maps violate anti-gerrymandering standards in the two … Continue reading

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State Supreme Court justice teaches kids about law

A Florida Supreme Court justice visited with students from a North Miami high school and taught them about the Constitution and criminal justice. By THEO KARANTSALIS Special to The Miami Herald In a packed courtroom at the North Dade Justice Center on Monday, a Florida Supreme Court justice handed out search warrants to 75 high school students. A few minutes later, the justice presided over a mock trial to decide the fate of a fictitious … Continue reading

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Why brag about a partisan court?

We recently received a campaign email from Chief Justice Chuck Malone. Malone, who was appointed chief justice last August by Gov. Robert Bentley, was offering an upbeat message to his friends and supporters. “For the first time, we have a completely Republican Supreme Court and I am honored to be able to serve the people of Alabama as Chief Justice of that court and to ensure that the rule of law is upheld in our … Continue reading

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Federal Appeals Court Rules “Fair Districts” Amendment 6 Constitutional

[Atlanta, GA] Corrine Brown lost her high-profile battle against the will of the Florida electorate. The “Fair Districts” amendment stands for now, anyway. A federal appellate court on Tuesday upheld a 2010 constitutional amendment that attempts to ensure that congressional political districts are drawn fairly, rejecting an appeal backed by the Republican-led Florida Legislature. In a 32-page ruling, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta rejected claims by U.S. … Continue reading

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Florida’s courts need reliable funding

The Florida Legislature needs to provide the third branch of government in this state with consistent, reliable funding. Revenue is currently provided from foreclosure filing fees. Even then, the courts receive only two-thirds of the revenue. And the fees, by their nature, tend to go through hills and valleys. Consider these facts: – Florida ranks among the lowest in the percentage of state budgets allocated to the judicial branch. For instance, Arkansas and Kentucky devote … Continue reading

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A better way to pick our judges

DURHAM — Informed North Carolina voters who consider the present realities do not want to continue to choose our judges by the democratic process that our state adopted in the 19th century. While we in North Carolina have experienced no disastrous judicial elections, voters in many other states have witnessed multi-million dollar defamatory campaigns for judicial offices. The chamber of commerce and other interest groups, or even parties in pending litigation, were winning contested judicial … Continue reading

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Wisconsin Editorial: Gableman Scrape Shows Need for Merit Selection

A Wisconsin State Journal editorial, reflecting on the latest ethics imbroglio facing a state Supreme Court justice, voices outrage over the “embarrassing and dysfunctional state Supreme Court” and calls for adoption of merit selection as a remedy.

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Thursday Morning Reads: Bills, bills, bills

TALLAHASSEE — It’s only two days into the legislative session, but lawmakers are keeping busy with committees passing out a variety of bills so far this week and hearing presentations on many other issues. So with that, here are five stories you should be reading this morning. * The Orlando Sentinel reports that a new House bill would give the governor power over agency rules. From the story: House lawmakers are advancing a response to … Continue reading

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Stable revenue sought for court system

Governor seeks to replace unreliable funding stream from foreclosure fees with money from state’s general fund. The recurring need for emergency loans to keep state courts afloat may cease if Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal to fund the courts with $280 million from the general fund instead of foreclosure fees becomes reality. The courts have been operating with money from the State Courts Revenue Trust Fund, fueled largely by foreclosure fees, which became erratic when … Continue reading

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Santorum: Abolish courts that are too powerful

NORTHFIELD, N.H. – Taking a page from rival Newt Gingrich, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday leveled tough criticism at the judiciary, saying judges have become too powerful and that as president he would do away with some courts. Speaking to a crowd of 200 at a town hall at Merrimack Valley Railroad, Santorum said the courts needs to be reined in. “The third branch of government is in fact too powerful in the … Continue reading

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Local courts work for justice despite financial constraints

The Florida Supreme Court has a legal obligation to issue a certification of need for additional judges each year before the legislative session begins. In December, the justices recommended the addition of 48 county court judges and 23 circuit judges statewide — including one Flagler County court judge, one St. Johns County court judge, two Volusia County court judges and two circuit judges in the 7th Judicial Circuit. While the state court system receives less … Continue reading

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Florida Bar board members quiz Trippe about judicial appointments

01/02/2012 by Gary Blankenship, The Florida Bar News Gov. Rick Scott is looking for judicial applicants with character, who know the limits of their office and who will also practice judicial restraint, according to Scott’s general counsel, Charles Trippe. Trippe attended the Bar Board of Governors meeting Dec. 9 to discuss the role of his office and Scott’s approach to selecting judges and appointing members to the state’s 26 judicial nominating commissions. He also took … Continue reading

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Guest Opinion: Florida Governor Scott right to challenge judge’s ruling on welfare drug tests

Written by Rep. Matt Caldwell Earlier this year I, along with a majority of my colleagues, cast a vote in the Legislature to require drug-testing of applicants before they can begin collecting welfare cash, and the requirement became law. Despite an October ruling by an activist federal judge halting the program, I would proudly cast the same vote again today. That’s why I’m so pleased with Gov. Rick Scott for challenging District Court Judge Mary … Continue reading

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Don’t give guvs sole power to pick judges

It was open season on judicial independence in Florida during the 2011 legislative session. Lawmakers introduced a series of insidious proposals to boost their sway, or the governor’s, over judges. One of the worst proposals would have given the governor sole discretion in naming the panels that nominate candidates for appointment to the bench. It passed in the House, but was wisely rejected by the Senate amid bipartisan opposition. Yet Gov. Rick Scott recently said … Continue reading

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Co-Equal Opportunity: Legislators Are Out to Take Over Their State Judiciary Systems

Illustration by Matt Mahurin Court-packing and other devices legislators employ to control their justice systems are almost as old as the Constitution itself. I In 1801 the lame-duck Federalist Congress and outgoing President John Adams raised opponents’ ire with bills that allowed Adams to appoint dozens of their party faithful to judgeships, including Chief Justice John Marshall. Marshall, of course, also famously introduced the principle of judicial review, declaring in his seminal 1803 opinion Marbury … Continue reading

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Gingrich Says He Would Arrest Judges With Capitol Police Or U.S. Marshals

WASHINGTON — With just weeks to go before the Iowa Caucus, Newt Gingrich has turned his presidential campaign into a veritable megaphone warning about the dangers and elitism of America’s judicial system. The former House Speaker held a half-hour phone call on Saturday during which he pledged to abolish courts and eliminated activist judges he believed were either outside the mainstream or infringing too deeply on the commander in chief’s authority. On Sunday, he followed … Continue reading

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Florida Supreme Court Says State Needs 72 Judges

Florida’s highest court says the state needs 71 additional trial court judges and one for the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland because of an increase in mortgage and civil cases and demands on reduced staff time by a growth in those who self-represent themselves in legal matters. With the state Legislature looking to plug a nearly $2 billion shortfall in projected revenue for the next fiscal year, the justices stated in a release … Continue reading

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Bush Attorneys General Call Gingrich Position on Courts ‘Dangerous’

Two former attorneys general under President George W. Bush have found a few things to like in Newt Gingrich’s position paper on reining in the authority of the federal courts, but other parts, they say, are downright disturbing. Some of the ideas are “dangerous, ridiculous, totally irresponsible, outrageous, off-the-wall and would reduce the entire judicial system to a spectacle,” said former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. In a 28-page position paper entitled, “Bringing the Courts Back Under … Continue reading

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Judge tosses Amendment 7 off Florida ballot

Florida Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis has thrown off the 2012 ballot an amendment that would have ended the state’s Blaine amendment, which bars “state aid” to religious organizations. Lewis found the ballot summary by the Legislature misleading. The judge also upheld a new law, though, that will allow attorney general Pam Bondi to rewrite the summary for another review. The Florida Education Association challenged the amendment along with several religious leaders. One of the … Continue reading

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Florida courts need steady state funding

Florida’s court system is a co-equal branch of state government, but it has operated more like a struggling car maker lately, forced to depend on government loans to keep running. Now Gov. Rick Scott has come up with a new formula for bankrolling the system that should spare judges from having to beg next year. State legislators should embrace the governor’s goal of providing steady funding so that courts can deliver the justice that Floridians … Continue reading

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Despite court setbacks, Scott, lawmakers, pledge aggressive conservative 2012 agenda

TALLAHASSEE Gov. Rick Scott and top Republican lawmakers say a series of unfavorable court rulings on legislation they pushed last spring will not deter them from again pursuing a strong conservative agenda in 2012. With contentious issues such as state employee health insurance changes, prayer in schools, higher education reform and the drawing of new political districts on tap for the legislative session that begins in January, more legal battles are likely. For Democrats — … Continue reading

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Critics Say Budget Cuts for Courts Risk Rights

NASHUA, N.H. — For years, state courts across the nation have been scraping by on the support they get from state and local government budgets. Since the financial crisis of 2008, those budgets have been tightened in new ways that are being felt in courthouses and communities across the country. “The justice system’s funding has been decreasing in constant dollars for at least two decades,” said David Boies, co-chairman of a commission formed by the … Continue reading

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Judge gone, damage remains

By The Palm Beach Post Paul Hawkes is gone, but Florida taxpayers and the state court system will feel the damage he caused for years. In August 2010, Lucy Morgan of the St. Petersburg Times reported that Mr. Hawkes, a judge on the 1st District Court of Appeal, had conspired with legislators in 2007 to secure a $35 million bond issue for a 1st DCA courthouse in Tallahassee that is much more lavish than the … Continue reading

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Edward DuMont, Out Gay Appeals Court Nominee, Asks Obama to Withdraw His Nomination

After waiting more than 18 months without even receiving a committee hearing on his nomination, Edward DuMont, a partner at the Wilmer Hale law firm, has asked President Barack Obama to withdraw his nomination to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. As reported at Patently-O — and earlier at law.com — DuMont submitted a letter to the president on Nov. 4 asking that his nomination be withdrawn. … Continue reading

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Glut of Criminal Cases Puts the Squeeze on Civil Litigation

How many civil trials have you seen lately? Honestly. If you can count them on more than one hand, you’re the exception. Part of the reason — and it’s a big part, as this WSJ story explains — is the explosion of criminal prosecutions, which by law take precedence over civil cases. Some of the factors at play: There are more criminal cases related to drugs and immigration crowding the docket. Then there is the … Continue reading

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Symposium Advocates Unanimous Jury Verdicts in Death Penalty Cases

Convicted Killer Oba Chandler is set to be executed on Tuesday.  All twelve jurors unanimously agreed Chandler brutally murdered an Ohio woman and her two daughters and deserved death. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, a panel of experts believes that Chandler is one of the rare cases in which all the jurors agreed. Oba Chandler’s jury found his crime so heinous, that all 12 jurors said he deserved to die. But even Ted Bundy’s … Continue reading

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Legal experts focus on Florida’s death penalty

Panel pushes for changes to capital punishment in Fla. TALLAHASSEE — A panel that included legal experts, academics and lawmakers on Monday renewed a push for changes to try to make Florida’s death penalty more just and prevent innocent people from being executed. Participants’ views about their chances of success ranged from hopeful to despairing in a state that leads the nation with 23 death row inmates who have been exonerated. “It seems to be … Continue reading

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Our Opinion: Flawed death-penalty processes need review

On Monday at Florida State University, the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights will host a forum meant to shift the conversation about capital punishment — from whether it’s good public policy to its fiscal implications and integrity. Five years ago, the American Bar Association released its Florida Death Penalty Assessment Team report, which raised serious concerns about the fairness and impartiality of Florida’s death penalty process. It called for a complete review of … Continue reading

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A buoyed healthcare law reaches Supreme Court

Justices are expected to announce as soon as Monday that they will hear a challenge to President Obama’s landmark legislation, which bears the surprising approval of prominent conservative judges. Reporting from Washington— After a year and a half of legal skirmishing, President Obama’s embattled healthcare law has arrived at the Supreme Court riding a surprising winning streak and carrying a constitutional stamp of approval from prominent conservative judges. Only three of the 12 appellate judges … Continue reading

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Judge Shea to Florida Supreme Court: No, I won’t step down for 60 days

ORLANDO – Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge Tim Shea today told the Florida Supreme Court no, he won’t agree to a 60-day unpaid suspension as punishment for bullying attorneys who appear in his courtroom. Shea, 56, thought he had settled the matter in June by agreeing to be publicly reprimanded by the high court, but last month, the court said that was too lenient. It asked Shea to agree to stay off the bench for 60 days, … Continue reading

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Right-to-speak issue lives on with Daytona court’s ruling

DAYTONA BEACH — A court fight over the public’s right to be heard at public meetings has ended in a legal stalemate of sorts, leaving the issue open to be fought over for another day. William Stetson Kennedy, a civil rights legend with deep roots in Central Florida died earlier this year at 94. Part of the legacy Kennedy left behind was a lawsuit he filed in 2009, claiming he was wrongly kept from speaking … Continue reading

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Legal experts focus on Florida’s death penalty

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Legal experts are renewing a push for changes in Florida’s death penalty to prevent innocent people from being executed. A panel including former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero, lawyers and legislators addressed that issue Monday at Florida State University’s law school in Tallahassee. State Sen. Thad Altman, a Viera Republican, said he hoped to at least get a hearing for his bill that would require jury recommendations for death sentences to … Continue reading

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Findings are “disturbing”

A Washington Post editorial describes the findings of the New Politics of Judicial Elections: 2009-2010 as “disturbing.”  According to the editorial, “[t]he notion of impartial justice for all is obliterated when judges are forced to think like politicians and to curry favor with monied interests just to keep their jobs.” Meanwhile, another Post article discusses how retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has spoken out against the general trend of increasing politicization of the judiciary … Continue reading

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The Influence Industry: Judicial elections, corporate policies give glimpse into 2012

Two studies scheduled to be released Thursday offer contrasting predictions for the 2012 elections: Outside groups are likely to spend more money than ever, but many top corporations may not be among them. The first analysis, by a trio of advocacy organizations, found that almost a third of the money spent on state judicial elections last year came from outside interest groups — a dramatic departure from historic norms. The authors argue that the pattern … Continue reading

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Outside Groups’ New Outsize Influence in Judicial Elections

Non-candidate spending in state high court elections nearly doubled as a share of total costs in 2009-10, compared to the previous off-year election, a new Brennan Center and Justice at Stake report shows. This spending fueled a flood of non-candidate TV advertising, making this the costliest non-presidential election cycle ever for TV spending in judicial elections. Among the report’s key findings: Nearly one-third of all funds spent on state high court elections came from non-candidate groups ($11.5 … Continue reading

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Suit challenges Fla. law requiring workers to pay into their pensions

TALLAHASSEE — A lawsuit challenging the new state law making public employees pay 3 percent of their salaries for their retirement plan could punch an $860 million hole in Florida’s budget and take some $600 million away from county governments if it is upheld by the courts. The lawsuit, filed by firefighters, police officers, teachers and other public employees and their unions, is pending in circuit court in Leon County, with a ruling expected soon … Continue reading

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Union again beats state in private prison battle

For the second time, the union representing Florida correctional officers has succeeded in convincing a judge to order a halt to the Legislature’s plan to privatize 29 South Florida prisons. Early Saturday, Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford stopped the project a second time, handing another political victory to the Florida Police Benevolent Association and another legal setback to the Legislature and Department of Corrections. “The Department of Corrections, its attorneys, agents and employees are directed to cease and desist all … Continue reading

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Courts need more diversity

Twenty years ago, a study commission found that “Minorities are significantly underrepresented as judges in Florida in proportion to their numbers in the general population …” A follow-up study in 2000 found some improvement, especially at the high-court level, but “the judiciary as a whole still does not accurately reflect the rich cultural diversity of our state.” Eleven years later, that assessment still holds true. Too little progress has been made. The Florida Legislative Black … Continue reading

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GOP won’t let courts derail its agenda

Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans plan a conservative push in 2012 TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and top Republican lawmakers say a series of unfavorable court rulings on legislation they pushed last spring will not deter them from again pursuing a strong conservative agenda in 2012. With contentious issues such as state employee health insurance changes, prayer in schools, higher education reform and the drawing of new political districts on tap for the legislative session … Continue reading

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Florida courts go begging

Without an independent judiciary, Florida’s constitutional government loses its balance. And without an adequately and reliably funded court system, justice for the ordinary citizen is delayed, perhaps denied. Since July 1, the governor has had to loan almost $100 million to the system to keep the courts running, after a collapse in the court filing fees and fines that the system now relies on. Financial vulnerability not only threatens the courts’ ability to handle the … Continue reading

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Guest opinion: Florida courts deserve a better funding formula

In January, lawmakers will convene to redraw Florida’s legislative districts. This exercise will present important challenges. But just as important, legislators must redo the boundaries of Florida’s $69 billion budget to ensure court funding is stable and secure. The current situation is unworkable. Florida’s judicial branch receives only .7 of 1 percent of state revenues. Responsible for serving 18 million people, Florida’s courts bring resolution to myriad disputes affecting all citizens. By comparison with other … Continue reading

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The Court and the Next President

The Republican presidential hopefuls have been saying alarming things about the federal courts. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum want to abolish the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which Mr. Gingrich says is “consistently radical” — meaning it upholds civil rights and civil liberties and other things he doesn’t like. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul say they would forbid the Supreme Court from ruling on same-sex marriage, forgetting perhaps that presidents don’t … Continue reading

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Assault on courts is un-American

Here’s a profound paradox: Republican candidates for president are competing for conservative votes by advancing increasingly radical proposals for eviscerating the federal judiciary. Texas Gov. Rick Perry favors a constitutional amendment giving Congress veto power over Supreme Court decisions and would end lifetime tenure for federal judges. Rep. Michele Bachmann says Congress should bar the courts from considering controversial issues such as same-sex marriage. Rep. Ron Paul would give voters the right to oust federal … Continue reading

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Careful with the courts

The way some Republican presidential candidates are talking about the Supreme Court, we may see “Impeach Earl Warren!” billboards again. But even if the likes of Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum let the former chief justice (1953-69) rest in peace, their words about long-established traditions of our legal system recall years-ago campaigns to change the courts. In the late 1950s and early ’60s there was the effort to oust … Continue reading

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Judicial politicization, reform and activism: further thoughts on Gingrich’s views

By Judge Kevin S. Burke Last week I unintentionally started a debate with the Newt Gingrich campaign by writing a commentary entitled “Gingrich Attacks on the Courts: Should We Listen to Him? ” Gingrich clearly did not like what I had to say and responded by posting a point-by-point rebuttal on his official website, later reprinted by MinnPost. (Well, in fairness to him, his staff posted it.) The response is even more remarkable than Gingrich’s previous … Continue reading

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NEWT 2012 responds to Judge Kevin Burke on the role of the federal judiciary

The following commentary, which was published on the NEWT 2012 website, responds to MinnPost’s Oct. 20 Community Voices piece, “Newt Gingrich’s attacks on the courts: Should we pay attention to him?” by Judge Kevin S. Burke. The campaign also posted a second response, having to do with Burke’s interpretation of the Establishment Clause. In a recent speech and a 29-page campaign position paper, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich outlined his rejection of judicial supremacy, the … Continue reading

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Judge Burke v. Newt Gingrich

Hennepin County Judge Kevin Burke hit a nerve last week with none other than Newt Gingrich. To catch you up: Burke wrote a column in MinnPost criticizing some of Gingrich’s public statements about the judges and the judicial branch on the campaign trail. The former Speaker of the House, Gingrich is running for president but has yet to attract much attention from his party. Burke took issue with some of the promises Gingrich is making, … Continue reading

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