Editor’s note: Charlotte County Democrats agree with this recommendation. Only vote YES to retain Jorge Labarga.
As Governor DeSantis continues to run from his plans to ban abortion, the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board is sounding off on the right-wing judges DeSantis has used to stack the Florida Supreme Court who, like the U.S. Supreme Court, could decide to throw fundamental freedoms and clear precedent out the window and overturn the right to privacy in the Florida constitution.
DeSantis’ right-wing administration has already been fighting to undermine Florida’s constitutional right to privacy in court in order to enforce his extreme ban on abortion without exceptions for rape, incest, or human trafficking. It would lay the groundwork for a total ban in a possible DeSantis second term, as the Governor who is clearly running for president angles to be the most extreme heir to Trump. DeSantis has even attempted to trample Florida’s religious freedom and freedom of speech in the process.
The Orlando Sentinel: Recommendation: These four Florida supreme court justices have lost our confidence
- Gov. Ron DeSantis has reshaped the Florida Supreme Court into a political instrument of right-wing ideology that cannot be trusted to uphold the rule of law. The public’s only remaining influence over this rogue court is to deny new terms to its offending members when the opportunity arises —
- Of the five justices seeking merit retention, we strongly recommend a “yes” vote only for Jorge Labarga, 70, the court’s lone moderate, whose principled but lonely dissents in high-profile cases have exposed the majority’s radical activism.
- The justices whose retention we oppose are DeSantis appointees John Couriel and Jamie Grosshans and the more senior Charles Canady and Ricky Polston, the nucleus of the harsh new majority. If voters remove any or all of these judges, it will be the first time voters have exercised their authority to do so ― but even though this step is unprecedented, we feel it is warranted.
- DeSantis may have revealed more than he intended in an Aug. 25 interview with conservative broadcaster Hugh Hewitt. He said his prospective Supreme Court appointees are questioned by “a group of people that I trust,” including “six or seven pretty big legal conservative heavyweights,” some outside Florida.
- His clandestine consultants are likely members of the arch-conservative Federalist Society, like the governor himself and his Supreme Court appointees. Whoever they are, his refusal to identify them is reason enough for voters to register their disapproval by rejecting his justices.
- DeSantis told Hewitt he approves of “judicial activism” — something virtually all Republicans claim to deplore, “if that’s the proper interpretation of the Constitution.” In other words, if he agrees.
- Florida’s highest court has become breathtakingly activist, repealing precedents wholesale to make criminal laws harsher, the death penalty more likely, and civil courts more hostile to people with damage claims against Big Tobacco and other corporate defendants. It allowed an unconstitutional legislative gerrymander to go into effect. It blocked a proposed assault weapons ban from reaching voters. Without any pending case, it forbade the Florida Bar from requiring diversity among panelists who teach continuing education courses that lawyers are required to take.
- A court so dismissive of tradition and judicial restraint is unlikely to enforce Florida’s anti-gerrymandering amendments or abide by its own 1989 decision establishing abortion as a protected right of privacy, even though both rights have been emphatically endorsed by voters in recent elections.
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