Northeast Florida Voters Asked Whether To Retain Judges

Oct 24, 2018

On their November ballots, First Coast voters have up to six judges facing the question: Should they keep their job?

Several appeals judges, including a Florida Supreme Court justice, are on the November ballot. It’s called a merit retention election.

Florida law requires appellate judges to be on the ballot every six years. They’re originally appointed by the governor, while circuit and county judges are elected. Many of those were on voters’ Primary ballots.

Judges don’t have term limits. A judge can serve in Florida until the age of 70. However that could change. Amendment 6 on voters’ ballots asks them to consider upping the age to 75.

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The races are nonpartisan and judges are not allowed to campaign to maintain impartiality.

So how can voters learn about the judges up for retention? One way is to look at how Florida lawyers think the judges are performing.

The Florida Bar asks lawyers to rank judges on eight attributes: quality and clarity of judicial opinions; knowledge of the law; integrity; judicial temperament; impartiality; freedom from bias/prejudice; demeanor; and courtesy. Only responses by lawyers saying they had considerable or limited knowledge of the judges were included in the poll results

This year the bar sent out 76,529 surveys to its members and 5,239 lawyers responded. Judges were given marks, ranging from 66 to 92 percent approval. The Florida bar judge voting guide says a “good” judge is fair, impartial and understands the law.

Florida Supreme Court

Alan Lawson: 87 percent lawyer approval rating.

Lawson is a conservative justice appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2016. Lawson’s retention vote comes as three justices, Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, are leaving in early January because they’ve reached the mandatory retirement age. Even with increasing the retirement age on the ballot, Quince’s office said as of now its passage wouldn’t apply to the three justices. All of them would have had to have been on this election’s ballot for retainment since they were all last retained in 2012.

First District Court of Appeal (Duval, Bradford, Baker, Clay and Nassau Counties)

Harvey Jay: 85 percent lawyer approval rating, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott,  

Stephanie Ray:  86 percent lawyer approval rating, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott

Brad Thomas: 79 percent lawyer approval rating, appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush

Kemmerly Thomas: 80 percent lawyer approval rating, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott

Allen Winsor: 80 percent lawyer approval rating, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott

Fifth District Court of Appeal (St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler Counties)

Eric Eisnaugle: 66 percent percent lawyer approval rating, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott

Photo used under Creative Commons.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride