Florida Supreme Court, Amendment 5 (2012)

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Supreme Court Amendment
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Article V, Article III, and Article IV
State code:n/a
Referred by:Florida State Legislature
Topic:Judicial reform
Status:On the ballot
A Florida Supreme Court Amendment will appear on the November 6, 2012 state ballot in Florida as an legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The proposed measure would modify the existing State Supreme Court.

The proposed measure is also known as new version of HJR 7111. The original proposal called for splitting the state Supreme Court, however that bill was modified in early April 2011. The current bill proposes that three justices be added to the seven-member court. Additionally, two divisions - civil and criminal - would be created within the high court with five justices each. The governor would be in charge of appointing the chief justices for each division and two would alternate as chief justice of the entire court. Appointees would have to be confirmed by the Senate. The proposed legislation also grants the House access to investigative files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission and sets aside at least 2.25 percent of the state's general revenue to fund the judicial branch.[1][2]

The proposed measure requires 60 percent voter approval for adoption.

Background

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.

Proposed bills

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.[3] 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.[3]

HJR 7111 was later modified to the version that will appear on the statewide ballot. The new text wouldn't split 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.[4][5]

Support

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."[6]

Opposition

The proposal has garnered opposition from judges across the state and The Florida Bar, the legal group that represents the state's 90,000 lawyers.[6]

Path to the ballot

See also: Florida law for legislatively-referred constitutional amendments

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.[7][8][9] 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.[10][7][11]

Timeline

The following is a timeline of events surrounding the measure:

Event Date Developments
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.

See also

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