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Governor rejects two JNC slates

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Governor rejects two JNC slates

For the first time since the process for selecting members of judicial nominating commissions was changed 10 years ago, a governor has rejected slates of JNC nominees submitted by the Bar.

Gov. Scott Bar President Scott Hawkins announced to the Board of Governors at the July 29 meeting that Gov. Rick Scott has asked the Bar to submit a new slate of commission nominees for the 17th Circuit JNC and the Fourth District Court of Appeal JNC.

Hawkins said he got a call from Scott’s general counsel, Charles Trippe, advising him the letter would be coming from Scott rejecting the two slates. Hawkins noted that one of the Bar’s nominees for the 17th Circuit JNC, D. David Keller, was actually appointed by Scott, but for the Bar’s unfilled vacancy from 2010.

“He said the statute permits this [rejecting a slate], and this is how the governor’s office wants to proceed,” Hawkins told the board.

The Bar president added he has “high regard” for Trippe and agreed with him that the current statute allows the governor to reject Bar nominees.

Trippe’s July 20 letter to Hawkins thanked him for the Bar’s submission in May of this year’s slates of candidates. It then said, “After careful consideration, the governor has decided to reject the list of nominees for the 17th Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission pursuant to section 43.291(1)(a) Florida Statutes.”

Consistent with that law, Trippe then asked for three new nominees “that have not been previously recommended by the Board of Governors.”

An identical letter rejected the nominees for the Fourth DCA JNC.

When judicial nominating commissions were set up in the early 1970s under then-Gov. Reubin Askew, the Bar appointed three members to each JNC, the governor appointed three, and those six picked three nonlawyer members.

In 2001, the Legislature sought to increase then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s authority over the judicial appointment process. The Legislature did away with the commission-appointed public members and allowed the governor to appoint all nine members. Five members are appointed directly by the governor (two of which must be lawyers) and four other members are picked from slates nominated by the Bar. The statute gives the governor the authority to reject a Bar slate and request new nominees as many times as he wants.

(Terms of JNC members are staggered, so this year the Bar was nominating slates for one vacancy on each of the 26 JNCs. There’s a JNC for each of the 20 circuits, one for each of the five district courts of appeal, and one for the Supreme Court.)

Hawkins said the Bar will readvertise for applicants for the two JNCs and the Executive Committee will recommend new slates to Scott.
( New applications sought for the 17th Circuit JNC and New applications sought for the Fourth DCA JNC. )

When asked about the governor’s action, Gov. Scott’s press secretary, Lane Wright, said, “At this time we don’t have a comment.”

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