By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Not everyone in the GOP likes that the state Republican Party has positioned itself against three Florida Supreme Court justices.
This week, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi chose not to endorse the GOP’s involvement in a conservative-led campaign aimed at ousting Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince. All three were appointed by a Democratic governor.
This year, Floridians will vote on whether these justices will get to stay in the high court. However, groups such as Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity are funding a campaign advocating for their removal.
Bondi said she would not give her opinion on the fight over the justices, which means she also isn’t endorsing the campaign.
However, the state’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, said the GOP had the right to get involved in this issue.
State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater told reporters Tuesday that it would not have been his choice for the state Republican Party to get involved in the merit retention of three Supreme Court Justices.
“We as a party hold certain principles and we look for policies and candidates who are going to shape those with the expectation that justices are going to just constitutionally use good judgment and rule,” he told reporters. “It wouldn’t have been certainly a direction that I would have recommended.”
… Atwater said that despite his personal opposition, he had “no qualms” about the right of party members to bring the issue to the forefront.
“Clearly, to me, members got together and said we want to make a statement here,” Atwater said.
Gov. Rick Scott is also staying mum on the issue, but not exactly saying the state is wrong.
But some GOP higher-ups are vocal about their misgivings.
Three Republican powerhouses – including a former lieutenant governor candidate and two former U.S. attorneys - tried unsuccessfully over the weekend to get the Florida GOP to reverse course on its pledge to work to unseat three Florida Supreme Court justices.
“The (Republican Party of Florida) was within its legal right to express its position publicly, ” J. Allison DeFoor, Roberto Martinez and Marcos Jimenez wrote in a blunt, yet thoughtful, three-page letter to the GOP executive committee. “But, just because it has that legal right, does not mean it was right for it to do so. The retention of Supreme Court justices should not be turned into partisan political affairs.”
Even though the three offered a less incendiary alternative, GOP bosses said no dice.
They asked that the 40-year-old merit retention system be replaced by something similar to Amendment 5 on this year’s ballot.
The idea is, according to the Post, that “justices be appointed for 12- to 15-year terms” and then confirmed byt the Florida Senate, which is straight out of Amendment 5. Experts have warned, thought, that having the Legislature sign off on justices could politicize the Court.