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19 Fla. B. News 1 (1992)

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January 1, 1992                                                                                                                                  Vol. 19, No. 1

Mermt selection winas its way tmhrough the Senate


By Gary Blankenship
Associate Editor

  Electingjudges from smaller than coun-
tywide and circuitwide districts would
give minorities a better chance of reach-
ing the bench, according to a Jacksonville
attorney.
  But going to merit Pelection and reten-
tion for all trial judges would remove
campaign pressures from judicial races,
help more minorities become judges, and
give a better quality judge, countered Bar
President Ben Hill and representatives
of Common Cause and the League of
Women Voters.
   Those are some of the divergent views
 at a December 11 hearing held by the
 Senate Judiciary Committee on litigation
 over judicial elections and proposed con-
 stitutional amendments extending merit
 selection and retention to all trial judges.
   Committee Chair Sen. Peter Weinstein,
 D-Tamarac, announced the committee
 would take up all proposed merit selec-
 tion and retention legislation at its first
 January meeting.
   The December 11hearing came one day
 before a second challenge-involving
 Duval County and the Fourth Circuit-to
 Florida's at-large judicial elections went
 to trial in a Jacksonville federal district.
 court. The first case involving Leon


By Gary Blankenship
Associate Editor
  The Florida court system lost $2.6 mil-
lion, state attorneys $4.6 million, and
public defenders $2.5 million in the lat-
est round of state budget cuts. Legal ad-
ministrators say they can bear the cuts,
but that they are stretched to the limit.'
  The reductions were made by the leg-
islature in a special session that ended
December 13 and were considerably to
slightly less that earlier cuts proposed
by Gov. Lawton Chiles.
  Chiles had initially proposed an $8.4
million cut for the courts, then reduced
that to $5.3 million. State attorneys were
originally proposed for $8.3 million and
then $5.2 million, while public defenders
went from $4.7 to $2.9 million in Chiles'
plans.
   The Chiles budget went out the win-
 dow when the Supreme Court ruled in
 October that only the legislature could
 cut the budget. That set up the special
 session.
   We'll bi able to get by with it without
 any marked impact on cases, except with
 the loss of retired judges said State
 Courts Administrator Ken Palmer of the
 latest round of cuts.


 Ad pamphlet inside
    Included as an insert in this issue is
  a pamphlet discussing the new attor-
  ney advertising rules. The pamphlet
  has been prepared by the Standing Com-
  mittee on Advertising and answers
  many commonly asked questions about
  the rules. The pamphlet is not all inclu-
  sive, and it is not intended to suggest
  that certain types of information not
  mentioned are impermissible.
    The Standing Committee is in the
  process of developing a handbook on
  advertising for the guidance of the mem-
  bers, and it is anticipated that the hand-
  book will be ready for dissemination
  this summer.
    The Standing Committee on Adver-
  tising would encourage members to re-
  view the enclosed pamphlet. The com-
  mittee would also encourage you to con-
  tact the staff of the Bar's Lawyer
  Advertising Department at (904)561-
  5780 for assistance.


County and the Second Circuit finished.
trial the week before.
  Sen. Arnett Girardeau, D-Jacksonville,
and A. Wellington Barlow of Jacksonville,
representing the D.W. Perkins Bar Asso-
ciation and the Florida Chapter of the
National Bar. Association, argued the
state should use either subdistricts or sin-
gle member judicial districts and not end
trial judge elections by going to merit
selection and retention.
  As long as you have at-large voting,
you're going to put black minorities at a
disadvantage:' Girardeau said. It means
we must make every effort we can to
strengthen the voting power of minorities
because it's only then they can elect can-
didates of their choice.
  I don't think you need a quota process,
but I think until the system is open and
fair we shouldn't go to the retention proc-
ess.
  Barlow said no black has ever won a
  Fourth Circuit-wide or Duval County-
  wide judicial election, and only three
  of the 42 county and circuit judges in
  the Fourth Circuit are black. All three
  were appointed.'*
  The result, he added, is whites can
reach the bench through either election
or merit appointment to a mid-term va-
cancy, but blacks can only become trial
judges through appointment. Going


  The court system gave up about $1
million it had saved in its jury funds
through better management, and saw the
appropriation for retired judges cut by
about $415,000, Palmer said. He hopes
to transfer leftover funds in other ac-
counts to make up for some of the lost
retired judge funding.
  The reduction of retired judges might
mean delays in civil cases in some cir-
cuits, Palmer warned, but sho,,ld not re-
sult in any major disruptions.
  He also said the Supreme Court lost
seven vacant positions.
  Even after the cuts, the budget picture
remains bleak, Palmer said. There's been
talk of a further $100 to $150 million cut
necessary before the budget year ends
June 30, and of a tight 1992-93 budget.
  But the courts will have trouble just
sustaining these cuts, he said, because
the recent reductions used one-time-only
available funds.
  'We've basically tapped out everything
  we can, Palmer said. I think it's rea-
  sonable to assume unless they [lawmak-
  ers] focus in on some of these sales tax
  exemptions and eliminate them... we're
  faced with the same type of problem next
  year.     (Please see Budget, page 3)


strictly to merit appointments makes mi-
nority access dependent on a governor's
philosophy about appointments.
  Barlow said Gov. Lawton Chiles has
done an excellent job appointing minori-
ties to serve on judicial nominating com-
missions and the bench, but that could
change.
  I don't know who is going to be the
next governor and I don't know what his
position is going to be on [minority] rep-
resentation on [JNC's and the bench]:'
Barlow argued. We think we're entitled
to more qualified judges on the bench
than the three we have.... The bottom
line is African Americans have been pre-'
cluded from electing candidates of their
choice:'
   Sen. Richard Langley, R-Clermont, ques-
 tioned whether blacks were underrepre-


sented in the Fourth Circuit. Qualified
black attorneys, he noted, make up less
than four percent of the Duval area bar,
yet have more than seven percent of the
judicial seats. That means blacks are
more than twice as likely to become judges
as white, Langley said.
  But Girardeau and Barlow argued the
small pool of potential black judges was
irrelevant and caused by past discrimi-
nation in not allowing blacks into law
school.
  Barlow predicted the plaintiffs would
  prevail in both the voting cases.
  Disagreeing with that were Assistant
  Attorney General George Waas and state
  Special Counsel Mitchell Frank, two of
  the four attorneys defending the state in
  those cases. Waas and Frank told the
             (Please see Merit, page 4)


Chiles favors merit selection


  Saying it would create a more fair and
qualified judiciary, Gov. Lawton Chiles
wholeheartedly endorsed a merit selec-
tion and retention plan at a December 9
Tallahassee press conference with Bar
and legislative leaders.
  The same day, a merit amendment to
Article V of the Florida Constitution
cleared the House Committee on the Ju-
diciary and is now set to be one of the
first bil!s heard when the regular session
opens January 14.
  HJR 23, sponsored by Rep. John Cos-
grove, D-Miami, calls for a constitutional
amendment to giVe trial judges the same
merit selection system appellate jurists
have. The bill contains an opt-in clause
that provides merit selection will not be
used in a circuit unless voters approve.
   Chiles said he would prefer to see merit
 selection statawide, a position also sup-
 ported by the Bar.
 The merit selection and retention sys-
 tem we are endorsing ensures that Flor-
 ida judges at the county and circuit level
 get to the bench on their merits alone
 and not from a popularity contest where
 the winner is the person with the largest
 campaign war chest:' Chiles said. The
 governor said something is amiss when
 80 percent of judicial contributions come
 from lawyers who have cases pending be-
 fore the same judges.
   It is evident that judicial elections are
 simply not providing our citizens with
 the best judicial talent:' Chiles added,
 saying the beauty of merit retention is
 the public can still periodically vote judges
 up or down.
   Bar President Ben Hill said while merit
 selection and retention is not a perfect
 system, it will ensure a more qualified,
 impartial, and independent judiciary.
   If this gets to the people, they will
 have an opportunity and indeed will de-
 cide that judges exist to serve the law


Freedom-Northern District Chief Judge William Stafford (left) helps unveil a bronze plaque
commemorating the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights following now-citizen swearing in ceremonies
in Tallahassee last month. See story on page 9.


Gov. Chiles announces positions as President
Ben Hill and Justice Ben Overton look on.

and not be representatives:' Hill said.
  Chiles said equal rights for all begins
with a court system that reflects the
state's diverse population. He said recent
changes in the make-up of the state's ju-
dicial nominating commissions will help.
  Merit selection legislation has been pro-
posed for the past 17 years, Cosgrove said,
which should negate charges that it's be-
ing pushed because of civil rights chal-
lenges seeking judicial subdistricts.
  Cosgrove said his bill offsets minority
concerns by requiring that JNCs estab-
lish uniform guidelines approved by the
Supreme Court to ensure that each level
of the court system be broadly reflective
of the general public which it serves:'
                       - Mark Killian


Courts take $26tiaion
worth, of budget.-cutbacks..


Dan T miss Midyear January S- 11 I-Aisay COMFiTWOO hfbrms duo soon

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