Florida Senate Judiciary Committee gives (lukewarm) approval to changes to merit selection

On April 25, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee gave its approval to SB 2170, changing the current statute controlling the appointment process for members of the state’s Judicial Nominating Commissions. Specifically, the bill eliminates the role of The Florida Bar in the appointment of members to the commissions by removing statutory direction for the Board of Governors of The Bar to make recommendations to the Governor for the appointment of four members of each commission. Instead, the bill vests the authority to make recommendations for these four positions with the Attorney General. Furthermore, the bill amends the current statute to provide that the terms of all current members of a judicial nominating commission are terminated, and the Governor shall appoint two new members for terms ending July 1, 2012 (one of which shall be an appointment selected from nominations by the Attorney General), two new members for terms ending July 1, 2013, and two new members for terms ending July 1, 2014.

The bill, while formally approved, was met with tepid support by the members of the Judiciary Committee. as the St. Petersburg Times put it, “Senate committee passes court reform bill, but they don’t like it.” (h/t Gavel Grab). The passage at all was considered a “legislative courtesy” to the Speaker of the House, whose own series of changes to the judiciary’s selection and structure were adopted a few weeks ago (see here). The Speaker had previously threatened to hold up the state’s budget if this and other bills he advocate changing the courts were not adopted by the Senate.

The bill now goes before the Senate Rules committee today.

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