Governor Scott Actively Exercises Prerogative to Shape Florida's Nominating Commissions

October 28, 2013

Florida is one of eight states with a commission-based judicial appointment process wherein the governor appoints all members of the nominating commissions. In Florida, as in Arizona, Delaware, and Utah, some of the governor's appointees come from candidate lists submitted by the state bar association.

According to a new report, Florida Governor Rick Scott often rejects the bar lists, as is his prerogative, and requests additional names. Unlike predecessors Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush, who always accepted the bar's recommendations, Scott has sent bar lists back 16 times since 2011. According to an adviser, Scott "wants people with humility and he wants judges who will follow the law and not make it up as they go along.” Those frequently found on Scott's cut list include “lawyers who are registered Democrats, are aligned with left-leaning groups or who promote themselves as trial lawyers.”

With seventy-six commission positions coming open between now and June 2014, the pace of these rejections is expected to rise.

In Florida, the composition of the nominating commission is determined by statute. Since 2001, the governor has appointed all nine members of the state's 26 nominating commissions, with four appointees coming from bar-recommended candidates. Prior to 2001, the appointment authority was shared by the state bar, the governor, and the commission itself, with each appointing three commission members. In recent sessions, the legislature has considered expanding the governor's authority over the nominating commissions by eliminating tenure protection for the governor's five unilateral appointees and stipulating that they serve at the governor's pleasure.