The Florida Bar
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The Florida Bar FAQs Videos

Merit Selection and Retention, Scott Hawkins


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In Florida's general elections, why am I asked to vote "yes" or "no" on some judges?
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Are the justices and judges in judicial merit retention elections on the ballot because they have done something wrong?
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Do the justices and judges in merit retention elections have opponents?
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How do Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges get on the court?
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Why does Florida use the merit selection and retention system?
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How can I learn more about the justices in a merit retention election?
Index of Videos

Video Scripts

In Florida’s general elections, why am I asked to vote "yes" or "no" on some judges?
When Florida’s general election ballot lists Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges, these are called judicial merit retention elections. 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. Results are determined by majority vote.

Are the justices and judges in judicial merit retention elections on the ballot because they have done something wrong?
The appearance of justices and judges on the ballot in merit retention elections does not indicate anything about their performance or actions as judges. Unethical judges can be removed from office by the Florida Supreme Court after an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Do the justices and judges in merit retention elections have opponents?
There are no opponents in merit retention elections or political party affiliations, and these judges are not running against each other.

How do Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges get on the court?
Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges are not elected, rather they are appointed through merit selection. This process relies on members of judicial nominating commissions to screen applicants for judicial openings and recommend the most qualified to the governor for appointment.

Why does Florida use the merit selection and retention system?
Merit selection and retention ensures that the most qualified individuals serve as judges in our highest courts. The use of this system came about in response to voters concerns over abuses that occurred when all judges ran in contested elections.

How can I learn more about the justices and judges in a merit retention election?
Biographies of the justices and judges in merit retention elections are available on their courts’ websites. The Florida Bar also provides a voter guide and biographical information, and publishes a poll of lawyers who have knowledge of the judges’ service in regard to: quality and clarity of judicial opinions; knowledge of the law; integrity; judicial temperament; impartiality; freedom from bias/prejudice; demeanor; and courtesy.

[Revised: 05-15-2015]