Process to Pick 3 New Florida Supreme Court Justices Begins

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday started what will be a closely watched process to replace three Florida Supreme Court justices who will retire in January, with the appointments possibly leading to a major ideological shift on the court.
September 13, 2018 AT 9:55 AM

By Jim Saunders

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday started what will be a closely watched process to replace three Florida Supreme Court justices who will retire in January, with the appointments possibly leading to a major ideological shift on the court.

Scott said he asked the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission to begin a process that includes accepting and reviewing applications, interviewing candidates and making nominations for appointment. The process will lead to replacements for longtime justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who are required to leave the court in January because of reaching a mandatory retirement age.

Appointments of Supreme Court justices are always important, but Pariente, Lewis and Quince — along with Justice Jorge Labarga — are widely considered a left-leaning majority on the seven-member court. That has led to the possibility that their replacements could spur a rightward shift of the court.

As a sign of that, a legal debate emerged last year about whether Scott, who will also leave office in January, should have the authority to appoint the new justices or whether that power should go to his successor. Scott, a Republican, has appointed one justice, Alan Lawson, who is generally aligned with what is viewed as the conservative minority on the court.