Daily News Summary
An electronic digest of media coverage of interest to members of The Florida Bar compiled each workday by the Public Information and Bar Services Department. Electronic links are only active in today's edition. For information on previous articles, please contact the publishing newspaper directly.
Oct. 8, 2012
GOP'S UNWARRANTED ASSAULT-- The Miami Herald, editorial, http://www.miamiherald.com, Oct. 7, 2012. [Also: COURTS CAN'T BE CAUGHT IN POLITICS-- Citrus County Chronicle, editorial, http://www.chronicleonline.com, Oct. 7, 2012].
The Miami Herald editorial states: "Florida's Supreme Court justices decide cases based on the state's Constitution, not on what's politically correct, expedient or popular. The state Constitution calls for a 'fair and independent judiciary,' and that's what we have because Florida justices aren't elected, but appointed. This wise process allows the justices to be independent of political influences and special-interest blocs. Now there's a movement afoot to cripple Florida’s independent courts and force Supreme Court justices to bend with the political winds. If this movement succeeds, Floridians can wave goodbye to that precious 'fair and independent judiciary.'"
The Citrus County Chronicle editorial states: "The effort by political parties to get involved in a judicial retention election is a 'colossal mistake,' according to Sandy D'Alemberte, a Tallahassee lawyer, former legislator and former president of the American Bar Association. . . . While not taking an advocacy position on whether individual judges should be retained, The Florida Bar is running a $300,000 campaign to educate voters about the judicial retention process, and has enlisted former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to introduce a video on retention. In that introduction, O'Connor says that for more than three decades, the merit retention system has helped buffer the state’s appellate courts from improper influence; and for the system to work, voters need to educate themselves and make informed decisions. This is sound advice for voters. . . . We are disappointed that some in the state are trying to make the judicial retention process a political football."
INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY IS IMPORTANT-- The Ledger, column, http://www.theledger.com, Oct. 8, 2012.
The guest column by Florida Supreme Court Justice James E.C. Perry states: "This November, Floridians will vote on whether to retain three Florida Supreme Court justices and 15 District Court of Appeal judges. They're not on the ballot because they did something wrong, rather, it's just business as usual under Florida's merit-retention system. . . . As a member of the court I can neither support nor oppose fellow justices or any of the appellate court judges on the ballot. However, I can speak out about the purpose of merit retention and ask that when you go to the voting booth that you consider the importance of a separate judicial branch in our system of government, which is built on a foundation of checks and balances and separation of powers. It is much like a stool delicately balanced on three legs."
DOES POLITICS BELONG IN MERIT-RETENTION VOTE?-- Daytona Beach News-Journal, column, http://www.news-journalonline.com, Oct. 7, 2012. [Also: GOP SHOULD STAY OUT OF JUSTICES' RETENTION RACE-- Ocala Star Banner, column, http://www.ocala.com, Oct. 7, 2012; JUDITICS-- The Gainesville Sun,http://www.gainesville.com, Oct. 7, 2012; JUDGES, UNIONS AND 'THE APPEARANCE OF EVIL'-- The Gainesville Sun, column, http://www.gainesville.com, Oct. 6, 2012].
The Daytona Beach News-Journal guest column by attorney and mediator Sandra Upchurch, a member of The Florida Bar Board of Governors, states: "Florida businesses, families and injured parties, just to name a few groups, turn to Florida's court system to resolve their most complicated disputes, disputes they are unable to resolve on their own. They turn to the courts knowing their matters will be heard and determined with fairness, impartiality and independence, free of political pressure. Never, in Florida's recent history, has that court system faced such a crisis as it now faces. The cornerstone of impartiality and independence is being challenged — in a very political way."
The column by Ocala Star Banner City Editor Jim Ross states: "There is nothing wrong with people trying to influence the merit retention elections of three state Supreme Court justices. . . . The courts already are politicized. Governors are political creatures, and they appoint Supreme Court justices. The system is not outrageously political, but it is political. . . . . The Republican Party of Florida should not further politicize the courts. We all should do our part to ensure the system works properly. That system calls for an independent judiciary, so the parties should stay out and stick to overtly political matters."
The Gainesville Sun column by Editorial Page Editor Ron Cunningham states: ". . . My fellow media mavens are aghast over a blatant campaign to politicize the judiciary. . . . Under merit retention we're all under some sort of pinky swear vow to only judge judges on their 'merits.' And Florida must have the most meritorious judiciary in the world, because voters have yet to say no. Are they all really that good? How can we voters know for certain? Well, we can check out The Florida Bar's poll of 7,857 attorneys, which indicates a 90 percent or more better rating for all three justices. That ought to be good enough for the rest of us. Because, you know, these people are lawyers. But lawyerly opinions aside, should we really be surprised that the merit retention process has gotten more partisan in recent years?"
The Gainesville Sun guest column by Jesse Phillips, president of Restore Justice, Inc., states: ". . . For the record, the title of this piece does not suggest that judges or unions are evil. My suggestion is simply that they may be entangled in a conflict of interest that has a very questionable appearance. . . .The Justices are running for retention. Until recently their primary supporters were members of the legal community. For the past two years there has been no recognized support for the Justices outside of the legal community. We have learned, however, that they suddenly have a new ally, public sector unions."
THREE JUSTICES WORRY PRESSURE GROUPS COULD CORRUPT COURTS-- The Florida Current, http://www.thefloridacurrent.com, Oct. 6, 2012. [Also: CONSERVATIVES TARGET FLORIDA SUPREME COURT JUSTICES-- Sarasota Herald-Tribune, http://www.heraldtribune.com, Oct. 7, 2012; JUSTICES: VOTE FOR US ON OUR BEHAVIOR, NOT OUR RULINGS-- Sunshine State News, http://www.sunshinestatenews.com, Oct. 6, 2012; FOR THE DEFENSE: JUSTICES HIT BACK AT CRITICS-- News Service of Florida, http://www.newsserviceflorida.com, Oct. 8, 2012; FLORIDA SUPREME COURT JUSTICES FIGHT BACK TO RETAIN SEATS-- Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times, http://www.miamiherald.com, Oct. 6, 2012].
From The Florida Current: Three state Supreme Court justices fighting for their jobs told Florida State University law students Friday [Oct. 5] the real issue on the ballot next month is whether the judicial branch of government will remain free of political influence and potential corruption. "This is something that's bigger, in my view, than any individual," said Justice R. Fred Lewis, who paused to keep control of his emotions as he spoke slowly. "This is really not about individuals. This is about Florida's future." Lewis and Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince discussed the state's merit-retention system for more than an hour at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Florida at the law school a few blocks from the Supreme Court.
FRANK UPCHURCH JR. REMEMBERED FOR HIS CONTRIBUTIONS TO ST. AUGUSTINE-- St. Augustine Record, http://www.staugustine.com, Oct. 6, 2012. [Also: FRANK UPCHURCH-- The Florida Times-Union, http://www.legacy.com, Oct. 7, 2012].
One of St. Augustine's best-known legal professionals, Frank Upchurch Jr., died Thursday [Oct. 4] at 90. Among his many accomplishments, the longtime St. Augustine resident was a lawyer, a judge with the 5th District Court of Appeal, a founder of Flagler College and a captain in the U.S. Army Air Force who served in World War II. What stands out for many is how Upchurch was so unafraid of risks. After years of working for a family canning business in California, Upchurch and his wife took their four young children back to Florida so that he could attend law school at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He was in his late 30s. After becoming a successful lawyer, he was named to the 5th District Court of Appeal in 1978 and served on the bench for 10 years.