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The Vote’s in YOUR COURT - Frequently asked questions about merit retention elections


The Vote's in Your Court - Judicial merit retention. Know the Facts

Frequently asked questions about merit retention elections

1. Why are appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices on the ballot this year?
2. What do “Yes” and “No” votes mean?
3. Do appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices have opponents?
4. How do appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices get into office?
5. Which courts are subject to merit retention elections?
6. Can judges who commit unethical acts be removed from office?
7. How have the appeals court judges and justices voted in cases?
8. Can I watch videos of the justices and appeals court judges at work?
9. What are the appeals court judges’ and justices’ stands on particular issues?
10. How can I learn more about the judges and justices backgrounds?
11. How did Florida decide to use the merit retention election system?
12. Where can I find results from prior merit retention elections?

1. Why are appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices on the ballot this year?
Florida appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices are on the ballot in nonpartisan elections every six years so voters can determine whether they should stay in office. This regular vote is called “merit retention.” This year, three Supreme Court justices (out of seven) and 15 appeals court judges (out of 61) have merit retention elections.

2. What do “Yes” and “No” votes mean?
A “Yes” vote means you want the judge or justice to stay in office. A “No” vote means you want the judge to be removed from office. The majority of voters decides.

3. Do appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices have opponents?
No. Your vote will determine whether each judge listed should stay in office. They are not running against opponents or each other. Merit retention elections are non-partisan. However, the justices and judges in a merit retention campaign could still have opposition from particular individuals or groups whose names will never even appear on the ballot.

4. How do appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices get into office?
The governor appoints them from lists submitted by Judicial Nominating Commissions, which screen candidates and make recommendations based on the merits of applicants. Newly appointed judges go before voters for the first time within two years after appointment. If the voters retain them, they then go on the ballot again every six years.


5. Which courts are subject to merit retention elections?
The Florida Supreme Court and the five District Courts of Appeal are subject to merit retention elections.

6. Can judges who commit unethical acts be removed from office?
Yes. This can result after an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which is an independent agency created by the Florida Constitution solely to investigate alleged misconduct by Florida state judges. Through this system, judges have been removed from office for ethical violations. For more information, visit the Judicial Qualifications Commission website. External Link Impeachment by the Legislature is an additional form of judicial removal for misdemeanor in office, also provided by our state constitution.


7. How have the appeals court judges and justices voted in cases?
Complete records of their votes can be found on the Opinions pages of the websites for the District Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Visit the appellate court websites.

8. Can I watch videos of the justices and appeals court judges at work?
Yes. Court arguments are webcast live and some are archived on court websites.

9. What are the appeals court judges’ and justices’ stands on particular issues?
Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct forbids the judges and justices from saying how they will decide future cases, because they must remain truly impartial. However, their votes in prior cases are available on the court website Opinions pages.

10. How can I learn more about the judges and justices backgrounds?
Biographies of the judges and justices are available on their courts’ websites.


11. How did Florida decide to use the merit retention election system?
In the mid-1970s, Florida’s voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment requiring that the merit retention system be used for all appellate judges. This vote came after the public became concerned about abuses that occurred because of the earlier system of contested elections.

12. Where can I find results from prior merit retention elections?
The Florida Division of Elections External Link maintains a searchable database of election results since 1978. Merit retention elections occur only during General Elections in even-numbered years if any appeals court judges or justices are nearing the end of their terms.








































[Revised: 10-16-2012]