Florida Supreme Court, Amendment 5 (2012)
|Constitution:||Article V, Article III, and Article IV|
|Referred by:||Florida State Legislature|
|Status:||On the ballot|
The amendment revises provisions relating to repeal of court rules, limits readoption of repealed court rule, and stipulates that all appointments to the Florida Supreme Court be subject to confirmation by the senate. The proposed legislation also grants the House access to investigative files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission.
The proposed measure requires 60 percent voter approval for adoption.
Text of measure
The official ballot text reads as follows:
ARTICLE V, SECTIONS 2, 11, AND 12STATE COURTS.—Proposing a revision of Article V of the State Constitution relating to the judiciary. The State Constitution authorizes the Supreme Court to adopt rules for the practice and procedure in all courts. The constitution further provides that a rule of court may be repealed by a general law enacted by a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature. This proposed constitutional revision eliminates the requirement that a general law repealing a court rule pass by a two-thirds vote of each house, thereby providing that the Legislature may repeal a rule of court by a general law approved by a majority vote of each house of the Legislature that expresses the policy behind the repeal. The court could readopt the rule in conformity with the public policy expressed by the Legislature, but if the Legislature determines that a rule has been readopted and repeals the readopted rule, this proposed revision prohibits the court from further readopting the repealed rule without the Legislature's prior approval. Under current law, rules of the judicial nominating commissions and the Judicial Qualifications Commission may be repealed by general law enacted by a majority vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature. Under this proposed revision, a vote to repeal those rules is changed to repeal by general law enacted by a majority vote of the legislators present. Under current law, the Governor appoints a justice of the Supreme Court from a list of nominees provided by a judicial nominating commission, and appointments by the Governor are not subject to confirmation. This revision requires Senate confirmation of a justice of the Supreme Court before the appointee can take office. If the Senate votes not to confirm the appointment, the judicial nominating commission must reconvene and may not renominate any person whose prior appointment to fill the same vacancy was not confirmed by the Senate. For the purpose of confirmation, the Senate may meet at any time. If the Senate fails to vote on the appointment of a justice within 90 days, the justice will be deemed confirmed and will take office. The Judicial Qualifications Commission is an independent commission created by the State Constitution to investigate and prosecute before the Florida Supreme Court alleged misconduct by a justice or judge. Currently under the constitution, commission proceedings are confidential until formal charges are filed by the investigative panel of the commission. Once formal charges are filed, the formal charges and all further proceedings of the commission are public. Currently, the constitution authorizes the House of Representatives to impeach a justice or judge. Further, the Speaker of the House of Representatives may request, and the Judicial Qualifications Commission must make available, all information in the commission's possession for use in deciding whether to impeach a justice or judge. This proposed revision requires the commission to make all of its files available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives but provides that such files would remain confidential during any investigation by the House of Representatives and until such information is used in the pursuit of an impeachment of a justice or judge. This revision also removes the power of the Governor to request files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission to conform to a prior constitutional change. This revision also makes technical and clarifying additions and deletions relating to the selection of chief judges of a circuit and relating to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and makes other nonsubstantive conforming and technical changes in the judicial article of the constitution.
Several judicial reform measures were proposed by the legislature in early 2011 for the 2012 statewide ballot. The proposals were developed following the removal of three legislatively-referred measures in 2010 by state courts. Measures removed from the ballot included: Florida Redistricting, Amendment 7, Florida Property Tax Limit, Amendment 3 and Florida Health Care Freedom, Amendment 9.
Judicial reform proposals filed legislators include amendments to judicial qualifications, appointee certification, judicial retention, court rules, release of court records and splitting the Florida Supreme Court into two courts. The list of proposals can be viewed here.
According to the originally filed legislation's text (HJR 7111), the measure would abolish the current Florida Supreme Court and create a Supreme Court of Civil Appeals and Supreme Court of Criminal Appeals. Each of the new supreme courts would have five appointed justices. Three of the most senior justices currently in the Florida Supreme Court would be transferred to the new Supreme Court of Criminal Appeals. The remaining four current justices would be transferred to the new Supreme court of Civil Appeals. The governor would be responsible for appointing three new justices to fill the remaining openings in the courts.
HJR 7111 was later modified to the version that will appear on the statewide ballot. The new text does not propose splitting the state's high court.
In late April a Senate committee SJR 2084, a proposal to reduce the vote threshold required for the legislature to enact a law repealing a rule of court. Additionally, it would prohibit the Florida Supreme Court from readopting a rule repealed by the legislature for a prescribed period.
Asked in late November if he would continuing pursuing the split of the Florida Supreme Court (HJR 7111), House Speaker Dean Cannon said, "I don't think so, not to the same degree as last session."
The proposed measure, according to reports, is supported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Civil Justice Chairman Eric Eisnagle said dividing the Florida Supreme Court into two branches would speed the review of both criminal cases and civil litigation. He said, "This bill is intended to bring more efficiency to the high court's ability to address all types of cases."
The original proposals splitting the court and requiring senate confirmation of appointed appellate judges drew opposition from judges across the state and the Florida Bar, the legal group that represents the state's 90,000 lawyers. Communications with the state bar have, however, revealed that no official stance has yet been taken on the current amendment.
Path to the ballot
In order to qualify for the November 2012 ballot the proposed amendment requires approval by a minimum of 60% in the both the House and the Senate. On April 15, 2011 the House voted 79-38 in favor of the proposed measure. On May 2, 2011 the Florida Senate voted 28 to 11 to refer amended version of HJR 7111 to the ballot. The House confirmed the bill on May 3, 2011 following a vote of 80-38.
The following is a timeline of events surrounding the measure:
|Modification||Early Apr. 2011||The original proposal called for splitting the state Supreme Court, however that bill was modified.|
|Vote||Apr. 15, 2011||Florida House of Representatives voted in favor of the measure, 79 to 38.|
|Vote||May 2, 2011||Florida State Senate voted in favor, 28 to 11.|
|Confirmation||May 3, 2011||House confirmed the bill following a vote of 80-38.|
- SJR 2084 (status)
- The Miami Herald,"Lawmakers ask voters to weigh in on abortion, taxes and more issues in 2012," May 11, 2011
- The Herald Tribune,"Legislature passes 7 ballot items for 2012," May 6, 2011
- Associated Press,"Florida legislature passes overhaul of state courts," May 5, 2011
- The Palm Beach Post,"Senate ready to join Cannon in overhauling Supreme Court; do budget talks start now?," April 25, 2011
- Sunshine State News,"Florida House Prepares for Supreme Court Reform Vote," April 15, 2011
- Associated Press,"House debate begins on Fla. courts overhaul plan," April 14, 2011
- The Palm Beach Post,"Cannon’s high court shuffle clears House panel," April 7, 2011
- The Miami Herald,"Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon wants to revamp state Supreme Court," April 5, 2011
- The Ledger,"Move to Reshape Florida's Courts Advances With Backing of House Speaker," March 18, 2011
- Naplesnews.com,"Editorial: GOP strikes back with bills on amendments, high court," April 25, 2011
- The Miami Herald,"Don’t tamper with state’s Supreme Court," April 17, 2011
- FloridaToday.com,"Our views: Crushing the courts (April 3)," April 1, 2011
- Daily Record,"New court reform proposal still draws opposition," April 8, 2011
- St. Petersburg Times,"House Speaker Dean Cannon scales back court reform proposal," April 7, 2011
- HJR 7111 (status and summary)
- Florida Secretary of State,"Amendment 5," retrieved September 25, 2012
- Florida House of Representatives,"HJR 7111 full text," retrieved March 29, 2011
- Florida State Senate,"SJR 2084 status," retrieved May 4, 2011
- The Miami Herald,"Senate committee passes Supreme Court overhaul plan," April 25, 2011
- News-Press,"Cannon won't push major new court reforms," November 2, 2011
- The Herald Tribune,"Proposal would split state high court," March 17, 2011
- Florida House of Representatives,"HJR 7111 vote," April 15, 2011
- Associated Press,"Fla. House passes courts overhaul legislation," April 15, 2011
- The Palm Beach Post,"House Ok’s high court overhaul for ballot," April 15, 2011
- Orlando Sentinel,"Florida Senate votes to put changes in state Supreme Court on ballot," May 2, 2011
- The Miami Herald,"Senate passes Supreme Court overhaul — without expansion plan," May 2, 2011