Judicial selection in Florida
|Judicial selection in Florida|
|Florida Supreme Court|
|Florida District Courts of Appeal|
|Florida Circuit Court|
|Method:||Nonpartisan election of judges|
|Florida County Court|
|Method:||Nonpartisan election of judges|
State court judges in Florida are selected through one of two methods, depending on the level of the court. Judges of the appellate courts undergo a process of assisted appointment (or the Missouri Plan), while judges of the trial courts participate in nonpartisan elections.
Judges' terms begin on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January.
Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal
- See also: Assisted appointment
The seven justices of the Florida Supreme Court and the 60 justices of the Florida District Courts of Appeal are selected in an identical manner. A judicial nominating commission screens potential judicial candidates, submitting a list of three to six nominees to the governor. The governor must appoint a judge from this list.
To serve on this court, a judge must be:
- a qualified elector;
- a state resident;
- admitted to practice law in the state for 10 years; and
- under the age of 70 (retirement at 70 is mandatory).
Selection of the chief justice
If a midterm vacancy occurs, the seat is filled as it normally would be if the vacancy occurred at the end of a judge's term. A judicial nominating commission recommends three to six qualified candidates to the governor, and the governor selects a successor from that list. The new appointee serves for at least one year before running in a yes-no retention election.
- See also: Nonpartisan elections
In the event of a midterm vacancy, the circuit courts employ the same assisted appointment method that the appellate courts use. Judges selected this way serve for at least one year, after which they must run for re-election.
Like the appellate courts, the chief judge is selected by peer vote and serves in that capacity for two years. Judicial qualifications are also identical to those of the appellate courts, except that instead of the requisite ten years of in-state law practice, only five are required.
- See also: Nonpartisan elections
Like the circuit courts, the Florida County Court selects its judges through nonpartisan elections. County judges serve six-year terms, after which they must run for re-election if they wish to retain their seat.
In the event of a midterm vacancy, the county courts employ the same assisted appointment method that the appellate courts use. Judges selected this way serve for at least one year, after which they must run for re-election.
Judicial qualifications are identical to those of the appellate courts, except that instead of ten years of in-state law practice, only five are required. In counties of 40,000 people or less, this five-year requirement is waived altogether.
Changing the selection process
If a county wishes to use a merit selection process instead of elections, it may choose to do so. The county must collect signatures from voters (equal or greater in number to 10% of the county votes cast in the recent presidential election) and file this petition with the secretary of state. The measure must then be approved by the majority of county voters.
Judicial nominating commissions
In Florida, there are 26 judicial nominating commissions that nominate applicants for state court vacancies:
- A statewide nominating commission for the Florida Supreme Court;
- A commission for each of the five district courts of appeal; and
- A commission for each of the twenty circuit courts in the state.
Each nominating commission includes nine members who are appointed by the governor to four-year terms. Four members are attorneys appointed from a list of nominees submitted by the Florida Bar; of the remaining five members, at least two must be attorneys as well. Commissioners must be residents of the jurisdiction their commission serves.
Judicial selection methods in Florida have undergone many changes in the last 150 years. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest.
- 2001: The composition of Florida's judicial nomination commissions changed. The commission was previously comprised of three lawyer members appointed by the state bar, three lawyer or non-lawyer members appointed by the governor, and three non-lawyer members selected by other members of the commission. The legislature's 2001 revision dictated that the commission must now consist of nine members, all appointed by the governor (though four of the lawyer members must be chosen from a list submitted by the state bar). The governor is also required to consider the racial, ethnic and gender diversity, as well as geographical distribution, when making his or her appointments.
- 1998: Circuits and counties may now opt for their judges to be chosen through merit selection and retention, with the question to be put to popular vote in the 2000 election.
- 1976: Under a new constitutional amendment, appellate judges are to be chosen through merit selection and retention. Governor Ruben Askew, Chief Justice Ben Overton and State Representative Talbot D'Alemberte were at the forefront of the reform effort.
- 1972: A constitutional amendment was approved mandating the use of nominating commissions to fill judicial vacancies at all levels.
- 1971: The Florida Legislature instated nonpartisan judicial elections. Governor Ruben Askew moved the state toward the merit selection method by calling for the use of nominating commissions in filling judicial vacancies.
- 1957: The district courts of appeal were created.
- 1942: Elections were reinstated for circuit court judges. Since 1868, all judges had been appointed by the governor with senate approval.
- 1885: Established that supreme court justices are to be elected by popular vote to six-year terms.
- 1875: Established that the tenure of circuit court judges is to be reduced to six years.
- 1868: Established that all judges are to be appointed by the governor with senate consent. Supreme court justices are to serve for life while circuit court judges are to serve eight-year terms.
- 1861: Established that justices of the supreme court are to be appointed by the governor with senate consent to six-year terms. Circuit court judges are to be elected by popular vote to six-year terms.
- 1853: Established that supreme court justices are to be elected by popular vote to six-year terms.
- 1851: Established that, per legislative order, the supreme court is now to be served by its own judiciary, no longer sharing judges with the circuit court.
- 1848: Established that circuit court judges no longer serve for life and are instead to be elected to eight-year terms.
- 1845: Established that circuit court judges, doubling as supreme court justices, are to be elected by the Florida Legislature. They are to serve initial terms of five years but serve for life if re-elected.
Selection of federal judges
United States district court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.
The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the United States Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.
|Step||Candidacy Proceeds||Candidacy Halts|
|1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President||President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee||President declines nomination|
|2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate||Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation||Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee|
|3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation||Candidate becomes federal judge||Candidate does not receive judgeship|
- Florida judicial elections
- Commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection
- Missouri Plan
- Nonpartisan election of judges
- Retention election
- Courts in Florida
- Florida Secretary of State, "Division of Elections"
- Gavel Grab, "Court-Packing Measure Approved by Florida House," April 30, 2014
- Florida Bar, "Rules of procedure for the Florida Supreme Court nominating commission," November 7, 2002
- New York Times, "Florida Voters to Decide Judicial Selection," October 25, 2000
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial selection: Florida," archived October 2, 2014
- Online Sunshine, "The Florida Constitution," accessed June 25, 2014
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Florida; Limited Jurisdiction Courts," archived October 2, 2014
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Florida; Judicial Nominating Commissions," archived January 13, 2012
- American Judicature Society, "History of Reform Efforts: Florida," archived October 2, 2014
- US Courts, "FAQ: Federal Judges," accessed March 26, 2015