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Term Limits Proposed for Florida Judges

In a move meant to limit the influence of a single judge in the appellate process, the Florida legislature has introduced a bill to limit the terms of appellate judges.

Senator Travis Hutson and Representative John Wood have filed companion legislation that would limit appellate judges and state Supreme Court justices to two-six year terms. This move is not surprising, considering that the new Speaker of the Florida State House, Richard Corcoran, immediately declared that part of his agenda will be to deal with special interest groups’ influence on the state house, and to take on the state’s judicial branch. The Speaker specifically stated, “No public office – be it state representative, governor or judge – should be for life.”

Currently, Florida law does not put a limit on the number of terms a judge may serve, but does force them to retire by a certain age. Appellate judges and the Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor and then sit through a yes-or-no merit retention election – meaning voters simply vote “yes” or “no” as to whether the judge should remain on the bench. This vote occurs in the general election following the judge or justice’s appointment, and then at the end of each subsequent 6-year term. Since the implementation of the merit retention system, not a single judge or justice has lost a merit retention vote.

Many, of course, question the decision to limit judicial terms. Some believe this is a retaliatory move by the House because the state Supreme Court ruled against the legislature’s efforts to rewrite voting districts. There are, of course, pros and cons to limiting judicial terms. The stability and familiarity of having judges serving a seemingly indefinite period is hard to ignore. On the flip side, it is argued, term limits offer attorneys the chance to face different judges over a long period of time. Different judges offer different perspective on the bench, and arguably the chance for a better outcome on appeal.

Regardless of what side of the argument you fall on as to judicial term limits, it is an important issue to follow for any attorney who has an appellate practice, and any client engaged in appellate proceedings.

If you think you need a lawyer, YOU DO. Call Now!

Are you looking for a skilled attorney who can assist you in appellate or post-conviction proceedings? Please contact Attorney Tony Moss at the Tony Moss Firm, L.L.C. to discuss these, or any other defense matters. He has locations in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and is prepared to put his 27 years of experience to work for you.

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