Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente stresses the need for independent judiciary in the wake of Republican-led campaign to unseat judges

11/02/12 Lisa Marzilli
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As we wound down this 7th day of early voting in Florida on today's Last Call we spoke with Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente about the merit retention races facing voters on the 2012 ballot and the Republican-led campaign to unseat her, and two other state Supreme Court Justices – who also happen to be the only Democratic appointees on the court.

Florida has had a merit retention system in place for all appellate judges since the mid 70’s. It was overwhelmingly approved by voters, specifically to keep politics out of the judicial branch. Every six years voters are asked if judges from the state’s appeals courts and the Supreme Court should be maintained in office. Normally these tend to be very low key, nonpartisan races which frankly, are often skipped by many voters. But, for the first time in 40 years, a political party – specifically the Republican Party - has inserted itself into a merit retention vote.

Joined by tea party activists and conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity and Restore Justice 2012, the Republican Party of Florida has been actively campaigning to unseat Justices R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and Barbara Pariente based on what they see as “judicial activism”.

Justice Pariente was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in 1997 by Governor Lawton Chiles. Currently the longest serving member on the state Supreme Court she served as Chief Justice from 2004 to 2006. She’s also the second woman ever to serve on the High Court and was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 2008.

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