Our state government is based on a system of checks and balances. The existence of all three branches, The Executive, The Legislative and The Judiciary, is critical to maintaining the integrity of our democratic government. It is similar to a three-legged stool. All three legs must be of equal size and strength to support the weight of the people’s government that rests upon it. If one of the legs becomes too long, too short, or too weak, the stool will fail and the government it maintains will fall.
There is a disturbing movement going on in the Florida legislature to change the make-up of our Judiciary so as to meet the partisan political needs of a few legislators. These politicians have taken on the self-interested task of damaging our Judicial Branch of government simply because they do not agree with the Court’s independent interpretation of the law. There are bills pending that call for term limiting the Justices of the Supreme Court and the Appellate Judges and requiring them to run for office. There is also a bill pending that would give the Governor control over all judicial candidates by giving him the exclusive power to appoint all nine members for each Judicial Nominating Commission in the state. If successful, the Florida Bar would have no more input in the Judicial Nominating Commission. This would allow the Executive Branch to appoint the most ideologically compatible judicial candidates rather than the most qualified person for each judicial position.
Although we may frequently disagree with the decisions of our Court, we must remember that the Judicial Branch of government serves an independent, separate and necessary part of our government. The role of the Court is to interpret and enforce the laws of our state. Without the Court’s courageous and neutral interpretation of the laws, there would be no freedom or fairness in the state of Florida or in our Country.
The enemies of our Judiciary are upset with the Courts because they have not “rubber stamped” certain laws that violate the constitution. Rather than recognizing that the Court’s duty is to ensure that all persons’ rights are protected, they are critical that the Courts have stood in the way of their political goals. They seek to politicize the Judiciary. Under that scenario, the laws of protection and fairness would exist, but may become as meaningless as the constitutional guarantees offered by the former Soviet Union and modern day Cuba. Imagine living in a country without a meaningful Judiciary where laws would look good on paper, but mean nothing.
The Judiciary must act on the basis of what is just and not just on what is popular or politically correct. As President Kennedy once said, “justice does not mean just us” or just those in power. Justice should not depend on what political administration is in charge at a given time. The Judiciary’s fair interpretation of the law is the only way ordinary people can find protection from unfair treatment, abuse, neglect and harm caused by unscrupulous individuals, an overpowering government, or uncaring and greedy corporations. Judges are expected to decide cases based on their careful examination of the facts and the applicable law. Judges are not expected to decide cases on the basis of the campaign promises made by the most recently elected politician.
Our courts successfully and fairly resolve tens of thousands of cases on a yearly basis. Everything from simple to complex cases are handled in a just manner. The system works. There is no legitimate reason to allow for illogical tinkering with our Judicial Branch of government. The Courts are the defenders of our most precious freedoms and the guarantors of fairness for all.
As Floridians we have an obligation to protect our judicial system from unjust and untrue criticism. We must protect the Courts from becoming the political pawns of the Legislative and Executive Branches of government. We must preserve judicial independence so as to maintain freedom, fairness and the Constitutional principles that we enjoy.
I urge all Floridians to take affirmative steps to prevent this unwarranted attack on our judicial system. If we fail, we will lose much more than qualified judges in our Trial, Appellate and Supreme Courts, we may lose our fundamental rights to freedom and fairness. Please take time to contact your legislators and the Governor to voice your opposition to these proposed laws.