Candidates running in contested elections for Florida’s trial courts are being asked to complete The Florida Bar Judicial Candidate Voluntary Self-Disclosure Statement, approved by the Board of Governors to help educate voters about judicial races.
The form was developed by the Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee (JAEC) with input from the Bar’s Citizens Advisory Committee. Filing for county and circuit judgeships ended noon, May 2.
JAEC members developed the form after they saw widespread confusion among both voters and the media about where to get reliable information about judicial candidates. They also expressed concern about the increasing use by special interest groups of “questionnaires” for judicial candidates as a way to get them to reveal how they might rule on certain hot-button political, social, or cultural issues.
Having the Bar form, committee members said, provides voters with a neutral source of information and allows candidates to refuse questionnaires from special interest groups by pointing to the information provided by the Bar.
The statements, which are posted on the Bar’s website, allow judicial candidates to answer a variety of questions voters may wish to know about their backgrounds. The form asks trial court judicial candidates about their personal, professional, and education history; areas where they are certified; and experience in trials, mediations, arbitrations, or administrative proceedings. Other questions cover their pro bono and public service work and their disciplinary history as a lawyer or judge. Candidates are also asked about their health, criminal record, and military service record.
Included in the form is an essay question proposed by the Citizens Advisory Committee. It asks candidates, “In 100 words or less, without discussing any particular issue which may come before you if you become a judge, explain why you believe you would be a good judge.”
Many of the questions on the form are similar to those asked of lawyers when they apply to a judicial nominating commission for a judicial vacancy. Candidates may choose to submit forms in English, Spanish, and Creole.
The Bar mailed and emailed notices on the self-disclosure forms to all qualified candidates on May 12. Candidates must fill out and submit the form online by the deadline of June 9 at 5:30 p.m. (no late submissions will be accepted). The completed statements will be posted on the Bar’s website on July 14 at floridabar.org/judicialcandidates. The Bar will send out a news release and post an announcement on social media about the availability of this information to the general public.
These forms are only for candidates for county and circuit judgeships. They are not for the district court of appeal judges who are standing for merit retention. The Bar is collecting biographical information from those judges for website posting in May.
For more information, contact Doris Maffei at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-342-8060, ext. 5670.