Florida: appellate term limits bills reintroduced; Senate version is retroactive, requires nominees be at least 50 years old, and have prior judicial experience

Proposals to subject Florida appellate judges to term limits have been refiled for the 2017 session. A version passed the House in 2015 (see discussion here). As a I noted at the time, no state has term limits for its judges (with the odd exception of New Mexico’s part-time, non-attorney Probate Court judges).

HJR 1 appears to be similar if not identical to the 2015 version (HJR 197); it limits appellate judges (Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal) to 12 consecutive years in office and prohibits them from being reappointed for 1 year after leaving office. It is specifically not retroactive and does not count any prior years of service on a court against a judge (“time served by the justice or district court judge in that office prior to January 9, 2019, shall not be included in the calculation of the total number of consecutive years served in that office.”)

SJR 482 also has a term limits provision (two consecutive full terms) but includes some unique elements.

First, it would require a nominee for the Supreme Court have been a judge for a least one year. While effectively every state requires appellate judges be attorney s, no state requires prior judicial experience.

Second, it would require nominees for both appellate courts to be at least 50 years old. While some states require appellate judges be at least a certain age, they range from 25 to 35, not 50.

Finally, and perhaps most critically, the term limit provisions would be retroactive (“The limitations of the amendment on the terms of justices and judges apply to justices and judges in office on the effective date of this amendment [January 1, 2019].”)

Both bills have been filed in their respective chambers but not yet sent to committee.