Friday, October 14, 2016

My merit retention decisions: revisited

In my last post, I wrote about the merit retention decisions Collier voters face and explained why I planned to vote YES to retain all three Supreme Court justices and ten District Courts of Appeal judges on our ballot. A few days later, a reader made me aware of an article published the same day as my post that caused me to reconsider how I will vote on two of the Supreme Court justices on the ballot: Charles T. Canady and Ricky L. Polston (bios here).

That article, by Martin Dyckman in the SaintPetersBlog, is titled "Donald Trump pick Charles Canady could bring ‘dog whistles’ to SCOTUS."

“Dog whistles”??

According to Dyckman, "Canady’s name … is a dog whistle to the anti-abortion lobby. As a member of Congress, he claimed credit for crafting the emotionally laden phrase ’partial birth abortion.’”

In “‘Partial-Birth Abortion:’ Separating Fact from Spin” in 2006, NPR reporter Julie Rovner wrote that then-U.S. Rep. Charles Canady (R-FL) used the term in a bill he proposed in 1995 that would make it a federal crime to perform a “partial-birth” abortion. She said the term had been initially coined earlier that year by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

Also, Dyckman said, Canady and Justice Polston, “the court’s other frequent conservative dissenter,” both “dissented in April [2016] when the majority agreed to stay Florida’s latest anti-abortion law, a 24-hour waiting period, while the court decides whether to hear an appeal on the merits.” The Court is scheduled to hear oral argument on the case (Gainesville Woman Care v. State of Florida) on November 1. More here.

Dissenting in the LWVF’s Redistricting Case

Further, I was reminded by Dyckman, both Canady and Polston dissented when the Florida Supreme Court threw out, in December 2015, the Republican Legislature’s congressional redistricting maps because they violated the “Fair Districts” amendment approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2010. See League of Women Voters of Florida v. Ken Detzner.

One of Trump’s picks for the Supreme Court

Finally, from the Dyckman article, I learned that Canady is one of 21 people Donald Trump said he would consider as a potential replacement for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In a September 23 press release announcing the list of people from whom he would pick, Trump stated:

“I would like to thank the Federalist Society, The Heritage Foundation and the many other individuals who helped in composing this list of twenty-one highly respected people who are the kind of scholars that we need to preserve the very core of our country, and make it greater than ever before.”

The Federalist Society, according to its website, is “a group of conservatives and libertarians …. founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be…. This entails reordering priorities within the legal system to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law.”

The Heritage Foundation, according to its fundraising page, is “the most influential conservative group in America.” The group’s main website is here.

My decision

As I noted in my previous post, 84 percent of Florida Bar members who know them said Justices Canady and Polston should be retained in their positions.

But I don't like the positions they took on the issues brought to my attention by Dyckman’s article, and I am concerned about the implications of Canady’s inclusion on the Trump list. So I struggled with the question “Should my merit retention vote be based on whether or not I like a justice's interpretation of the law, or should it be based on his qualifications for the job and whether or not he is a ”good" judge?

According to the Florida Bar’s “Guide for Florida Voters: Answers to Your Questions about Florida Judges, Judicial Elections and Merit Retention”:

“Judges must be impartial, fair and understand the law. All judges may deal with cases that are either civil or criminal in nature. Knowledge in one particular area is not more important than the other. Judges should be selected based on their legal abilities, temperament and commitment to follow the law and decide cases consistent with a judge’s duty to uphold the law regardless of his or her personal view.”

That helped. Based on their dissents in the two cases mentioned, I don’t trust Canady and Polston to be impartial in deciding future cases that could come before the Florida Supreme Court relating to women’s access to abortion and reproductive health care, and Fair Districts – issues I care a lot about.

As a result, I will vote NO on the retention of Justices Canady and Polston, and YES on the others on my ballot.



Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can subscribe to Sparker’s Soapbox by email at www.sparkers-soapbox.blogspot.com, “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox.

15 comments:

  1. The name Canady rang a bell so I did some research and found the same article. I remember I voted against both of them in 2010. They are also frequent dissenters on questions of access to the courts by individuals doing battle with corporations. I will once again vote no for both on retention.

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  2. Pat, I may ask you to take over writing some of these posts in the future! I've got way too much on my plate and perhaps not enough time to do it all justice (pardon the pun)!

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  3. One thing to consider: it will be Rick Scott making a new appointment if Canady and Polston are voted down. Chances are very good that the judges that follow them will be worse.

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    1. That's true. It's no-win. But I will still vote no for the two of them. How about you?

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  4. If the judges were to be replaced with more centrist choices, I wouldn't hesitate in voting not to retain. With Rick Scott appointing their replacements, you can bet that his appointments to replace them will be very partisan and very right wing. A protest vote might do more harm than good. I don't agree with all of Canady and Polston's decisions, but they might be better than the alternative. Neither have been accused of corrupt practices and seem qualified for the position. I'll vote to keep them and work hard to get a Democrat elected governor in 2018.

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  5. But, might a significant NO merit retention vote send a message to both judges and appointers/governor, that the state has little appetite (and may again throw out) such biased judges? That's why I will vote no on these two, which I decided after reviewing their dissenting votes on the same decisions that concerned the author of this article.

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    1. Yes, I, too, will vote no, as I wrote in this revised post! Thank you for caring!

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  6. Personally, I voted no to Canady, Labarga, and Polston, because they were 3 of the 4 who approved the misleading ballot language of Amendment 1.

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    1. I understand! Thanks for letting me know!

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  7. I just discovered your blog and I just want to say how helpful it has been in allowing me to make informed decisions in the voting booth. Thank you.

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  8. I just discovered your blog and I just want to say how helpful it has been in allowing me to make informed decisions in the voting booth. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you!! Glad my work was helpful. I hope you will continue to follow me post-election as I continue to explore Florida government.

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  9. Thanks so much. I rely on your fact-based information, which I read thoroughly before the elections.

    Do you know of a similar blog for Lee County? My friends and family there are wishing for such!

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    1. Thank you! Sorry, but no, I don't know of anything similar for Lee County ... But knowing how much I've learned through this process and how much my research seems to have helped others, I do plan to continue following our local and state government and writing about what's important to voters in this blog. If you do Facebook, please "like" the page there -- I share much more there than I post here.

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