December 1, 2019 Letters
In the November News, John Terhaar writes to express his “disappointment” with my letter in the September issue. My letter mocked Gov. DeSantis for politically correct judicial appointments.
The governor should appoint the lawyers best qualified to fill the openings. As Claudos Spears says in the letter following Mr. Terhaar’s, if the best turn out all to be black women, then so be it.
Mr. Terhaar insists that the governor’s appointees are well qualified. Assuming that they are, is that a sufficient reason for their appointment? Do we seek judges who merely meet the low bar of “qualified,” or do we want a bench composed of the best legal minds in our state?
The crux of Mr. Terhaar’s argument is in his final paragraph:
“There must be a focus on diversity because justice demands that we do not select the most qualified candidates on paper, but the candidates most qualified for the communities they serve.”
Does that mean that blacks are entitled to black judges, women to female judges, gays to gay judges?
I recall a confirmation battle that occurred before many of our brothers at the Bar were born. In 1970, President Nixon appointed Judge Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court. Sen. Hruska defended the nominee from a charge that he was mediocre:
“Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Frankfurters, and Cardozos.”
Sen. Hruska’s argument would serve pretty well to support affirmative-action appointments.
I believe that all litigants, regardless of ethnicity and gender, are entitled to be judged by the brightest, most equable men and women we can find.
Ponte Vedra Beach
I read Mr. Terhaar’s November letter with great disappointment. The letter critiques another member’s letter from the prior issue, wherein that member bemoaned the “political correctness” of our governor’s emphasis on diversity in selecting judicial appointees. Mr. Terhaar’s letter goes so far as to implicitly accuse the member’s position as evidencing a bigoted, racist attitude, to wit:
“This thinking is, hopefully, an increasing rarity in our profession. Unfortunately, his letter reminds us that it still exists.”
This kind of reply, which seeks to rebut the position of another by endeavoring to demean their character, has no place in this publication or in our profession. Nor is it a particularly persuasive approach to logical argument. “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” Socrates.
I did not interpret the prior member’s position as “calling into question [the governor’s] appointees’ qualification to serve on the bench.” Rather, I understood that member’s position as calling into question whether those qualified appointees were the best qualified of the judicial applicants. As we were all indoctrinated to believe justice is supposed to be color blind, why should we remove our blinders when it comes to judicial appointees? Does a person’s race make them a better (or worse) jurist? (.. . or so the argument goes).
That is the crux of the prior member’s position. It is a fair question. It is an honest question. Perhaps the desired ends (a judicial makeup that is diverse enough to better withstand claims of bias) overrides the possibility that a given appointee may not be (strictly speaking) the very best of the bunch. However that issue is resolved, people should be able to debate it in good faith without suffering ad hominem attacks. We should be above that sort of thing.
As of the date of this writing, the black citizens of Florida are an unrepresented community on the Florida Supreme Court, albeit that they desire and deserve to be represented on this very important court. Good news: It does now appear that two vacancies on the court now exist or will soon exist due to the nominations of Justices Lagoa and Luck to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Said vacancies present a timely opportunity for the governor — through his power of appointment — to bless this community with at least one, preferably two, blacks to the court.
Of course, the benefits of a diverse court flow not only to the black citizens of Florida, but also to the entire population of our great state.
Most states with significant black populations have at least one or more black judges who sit and serve on their highest court. This is particularly true in the South: Georgia (Chief Justice Harold D. Melton & Justice Robert Benham), South Carolina (Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty), North Carolina (Chief Justice Cheri Beasley & Justice Michael Morgan), Louisiana (Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson), Virginia (Justice Samuel Bernard Goodwyn & Justice Cleo Powell), and Mississippi (Justice Leslie D. King).
A final note that is personal to this writer: Because in a true democracy “representation” in the judiciary is as important as it is in the Legislature, I ask in all events that the governor choose black judges who are “representative” of the prevailing views of the black community. While it is possible to do otherwise, it would be to curse rather than bless an important constituency that is currently unrepresented.
The governor’s record to date on matters such as this is well-known and appreciated — keep up the good work.
I was enthralled by Mr. Thompson’s letter in the November News about the horror of lawyer hucksterism.
Expecting decency in lawyer ads is as possible as expecting pigs to lecture hog farmers about the virtue of being a vegan. I suggest we abolish the Bar, repeal the worthless laws about unauthorized practice, and let anybody anywhere be an attorney. A little caveat emptor should work to clear the field. Contingency fees would drop to about 10% and a whole bunch of Clarence Darrows would magically appear. Going to law school just gets in the way of real legal genius. We all know this. Law schools don’t make great lawyers, God does.
I know relying on the free market is heresy to all of us conspirators against the laity, but it works sometimes.