Educating voters about what judges do and answering questions about Florida’s merit retention system is the primary reason for The Florida Bar’s “Guide for Florida Voters: Questions and Answers About Florida Judges, Judicial Elections and Merit Retention.”
First produced in 2012, the guide is in its second printing for the 2014 elections.
In 2012 when three Supreme Court justices and 15 appeals court judges were on the ballot, nearly 374,000 copies were distributed. This year, 22 judges serving on the state’s five district courts of appeal are on the ballot for retention votes but no Supreme Court justices.
“We created the voter guide to answer many of the public’s questions about judicial elections and merit retention elections so they can make educated votes in this year’s judicial elections,” said Michael Napoleone, chair of the Bar’s Constitutional Judiciary Committee, which spearheaded the project. “The guide also explains the different types of Florida courts (county, circuit, appellate), the types of cases each court handles, how judges are chosen to fill vacancies, and where to learn more about the judges and justices appearing on the ballot.”
The guide is divided into two sections — frequently asked questions about merit retention elections; and questions and answers about Florida judges and judicial elections. The guide also directs readers to a page on the Bar website for additional information about merit retention — www.thevotesinyourcourt.org.
In addition to the Guide for Florida Voters, The Florida Bar has other methods of helping to inform voters about judges.
Judicial candidates can publish Voluntary Self Disclosure Statements on the Bar website about their backgrounds and qualifications to be judges. The statements are found at www.FloridaBar.org/judicialcandidates beginning June 14.
In September, the Bar will publish the results of a poll of its members about appellate judges facing merit-retention votes.
Copies of the Voter Guide are being distributed throughout Florida by various chapters of The League of Women Voters Florida. Additionally, supervisors of elections will have copies available in their offices. Members who would like to distribute them at their civic and community groups and voluntary bars can request copies via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A result of a partnership of the Constitutional Judiciary Committee and the Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee, the guide was also reviewed by the Bar’s Citizens Advisory Committee, which serves as a sounding board for Bar plans and programs.
The 2012 Voter Guide was recognized by the National Association of Bar Executives Communications Division in the Large Bar category with a Luminary Award for Excellence in Special Publications.