The Difference Between Politics and Accountability
March 13, 2012
Randy Schultz of the Palm Beach Post accuses members of the Florida House of being “zealots” for passing a bill that would give the governor full authority to appoint five commissioners to the state’s nine-member judicial nominating commission (the other four are chosen by the Florida Bar). Schultz fumes that the legislature is not “truly conservative” and that its move would “increase the influence of politics” in judicial selection. Actually, what it would do is increase public accountability for Florida judges and the people who put them on the bench.
Under Florida’s current installment of “merit” selection, the judicial nominating commission is controlled by the four Bar Association appointees and commissioners selected by former Governor Charlie Crist, who was unceremoniously bounced from office by Florida voters in 2010. The nominating commission has unfettered power to force Governor Rick Scott to appoint judges he finds objectionable.
As it currently stands, who exactly can the people hold accountable for judicial appointments? Certainly not Governor Scott, who is a mere bystander to a process controlled by the nominating commission filled with commissioners he did not appoint. Not former Governor Crist, who has already been thrown out of office. Not the Florida Bar, which is responsible only to the state’s legal aristocracy, not the people. And certainly not the commissioners themselves, who are unelected and conduct their deliberations completely shielded from public view.
What Schultz is arguing for is not conservatism or the separation of powers. Instead, Schultz wants to continue providing complete control over Florida’s courts to an unelected commission that is accountable to no one – resulting in judges who are also unaccountable. What exactly is conservative about that?