We should vote from top to bottom on the November ballot
By Congressman Alcee Hastings
All of us have plenty good reasons to vote, but I want to add a few more that are very important. They are as follows: 1. Florida Supreme Court Justices; 2. Florida District Court of Appeals Judges; 3. Eleven constitutional amendments
Do you know the names of the candidates for the judicial offices? If you do, then you are well informed, and no doubt a “super voter.” Yeah! If you do not know them then I ask you to consider what I am about to offer.
R. Fred Lewis, Barbara J. Pariente, and Peggy A. Quince are on the ballot seeking to be retained as Supreme Court Justices.
Governor Rick Scott (why do I want to call him “Tricky Ricky”) had his administrative functionaries go to court to seek the removal of the three Justices. Why? Because on the last day of qualifying, the Justices were in a hearing and all three had their qualifying papers notarized by someone who worked for the Florida Supreme Court. I might add that the court dismissed the action, finding among other things, that the same notary practice routinely happened for court filers over the years.
But as my Mom would say, the cat was already out of the wallop; hence, the attack was on. Governor Scott wanted these Justices gone so he and his right wing conservatives could replace them. Now, as elsewhere in the nation, where fair minded judges are on the ballot (especially in Iowa two years ago where voters threw out three Supreme Court Judges, and are seeking to remove a fourth) a concerted effort is underway to remove the aforementioned Justices.
These are three extremely well qualified Justices. You may not know them, but they have made decisions that impacted all our lives. I believe they merit retention, and I am asking you to please vote to retain them on Nov. 6, 2012.
Turning to the 4th District Court of Appeals. Same question, do you know Carole Y. Taylor and Burton C. Conner? They are seeking to be retained as your Judges on the court mentioned above.
Again, I ask you to please vote for these extremely capable Judges.
Here is what the five judicial candidates are faced with. Florida has a system of merit appointment of judges followed by up-or-down retention or removal.
You won’t see or hear much about these officials. They are “down ballot”, and some people vote for the top only. This leaves these judges and the amendments subject to organized, well funded efforts to kick them off the courts. We must not let this happen.
Because this is a Black newspaper, and proud of it, I must mention that Justice Peggy A. Quince and Justice Carole Y. Taylor are Black. They are both very good personal friends of mine. I am also friends with Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Burton Conner who are white.
You and I know that, as Dr. Cornel West says, “Race Matters.” Listen, I want all of these outstanding jurists to be retained, but I’ll make you a bet. Peggy and Carole will get a few less votes than their colleagues.
“OK, Alcee, what is your point?”, you ask. The point is judges should not be subject to whim, misinformation, and prejudice. “Campaigns are political,” said David Wiggins, a judge in Iowa who is fighting removal. He went on to say that “political campaigns require candidates to count votes and appeal to donors. That system has created a big enough mess in Congress. It has absolutely no business in the courts. Judges should be beholden only to the constitution and law.” I could not have said it better.
Vote top to bottom, or bottom to top! But vote for President Obama, Senator Bill Nelson, Representative Alcee L. Hastings (hey that’s me), Senator Chris Smith, Representative Perry Thurston, and please vote in every contest on the ballot.
It needs to be repeated that the opinions stated are mine and not The Westside Gazette’s.
I will write later about the constitutional amendments.