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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


Why am I being asked to vote on judges?
What do “Yes” and “No” votes mean?
Do appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices have opponents?
How do appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices get on the court?
Which courts are subject to merit retention elections?
Can judges who commit unethical acts be removed from office?
Can appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices state their views on issues that may come before them?
Can I read the opinions of the judges and justices in cases they decided?
Can I watch videos of the justices and appeals court judges at work?
How can I learn more about judges’ and justices’ backgrounds?
How did Florida decide to use the merit retention election system?
Where can I find results from previous merit retention elections?


Why am I being asked to vote on judges?

Florida law requires Florida Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges to be placed on the ballot in nonpartisan elections every six years so voters can determine whether they should remain on their courts for another six-year term. These are called “merit retention” elections. This year, three Supreme Court justices and 28 appeals court judges will be on the ballot.

What do “Yes” and “No” votes mean?

A “Yes” vote means you want the judge or justice to remain on the court for another six-year term. A “No” vote means you want the judge or justice to be removed from the court. The majority of voters decides.

Do appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices have opponents?

No. Your vote determines whether each judge or justice should remain on the court. They are not running against opponents or each other. Merit retention elections are nonpartisan. In nonpartisan elections, candidates appear on the ballot without reference to any political party, (e.g. Democrat or Republican). Florida law requires judicial elections to be nonpartisan in order to preserve impartiality.

How do appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices get on the court?

The governor appoints judges or justices from lists submitted by Judicial Nominating Commissions, which screen candidates and make recommendations based on their merits. Newly appointed judges go on the ballot for the first time within two years after appointment. If the voters retain them, they then go on the ballot again every six years.
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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.

Can judges who commit unethical acts be removed from office?

Yes. This can happen after an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. The JQC (www.floridajqc.com) is an independent agency created through the Florida Constitution to investigate alleged misconduct by Florida state judges. Through this system, judges have been removed from office.

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Can appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices state their views on issues that may come before them?

Canon 7 of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct forbids judges and justices from saying how they will decide future cases. Judges and justices must remain impartial and decide cases without regard to their personal views or beliefs.

Can I read the opinions of the judges and justices in cases they decided?

Yes. Records of judges’ decisions can be found on the decision pages of the websites for the District Courts of Appeal and the Florida Supreme Court and through www.floridabar.org/TheVotesInYourCourt.

Can I watch videos of the justices and appeals court judges at work?

Yes. Court arguments are webcast live and archived on court websites.

How can I learn more about judges’ and justices’ backgrounds?

Biographies are on court websites, accessible through www.floridabar.org/TheVotesInYourCourt.
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How did Florida decide to use the merit retention election system?

In the mid-1970s, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment requiring that the merit retention system be used for all appellate judges. This happened in response to public concern over abuses under the former system of contested elections.

Where can I find results from previous merit retention elections?

The Florida Division of Elections 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 (www.dos.myflorida.com/elections).
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[Revised: 07-11-2016]