Florida Supreme Court Justice Retiring – How this Affects Florida and Criminal Defendants

May 5, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

After being appointed as a Supreme Court judge in 2016, Florida Supreme Court Justice Alan Lawson has announced that he will be retiring at the end of August 2022. Lawson had worked for 21 years as a judicial officer, which included serving as an Orlando circuit judge and a member of the 5th District Court of Appeal.

Over the last three years, Lawson played a large role in the conservative shift in the Supreme Court in Florida. Now Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will have to appoint a new Supreme Court judge. So far he has had three appointees—Justice Carlos Muniz, John Couriel, and Jamie Grosshans.

Lawson’s comment on leaving the Supreme Court is the following:

“One of the greatest joys in my 35-year legal career has been and continues to be the ability to work alongside a bench and bar filled with extraordinary individuals who work tirelessly to assure that the citizens we serve are well-served by our system of justice.”

With a new Supreme Court judge needing to be appointed, it is important to go over the process of choosing a Supreme Court judge in Florida, as well as how it will affect criminal defendants in the state.        

Process of Appointing a New Judge

There are seven justices included in the Florida Supreme Court, which all have to be selected in a specific manner. First, there must be nine Judicial Qualification Commission members who nominate a new judge. The nine judicial members are appointed by the governor. There is a list of three to six potential candidates for the governor of Florida, who then decides who will be appointed.

The following is a list of qualifications for a new judge to serve in the Florida Supreme Court:

  • Qualified elector
  • A resident in the state of Florida
  • Had been admitted to practice law in the state for ten years prior to assuming the position on the bench
  • Under the age of 75

When an individual has been appointed as a new judge, they serve for at least one year. After this period, they can appear in a yes-no retention election which is held during the following general election. If the individual is reelected, they can then serve a six-year term. Under the Constitution in Florida, a judge must retire at the age of 75. However, if the judge turns 75 while in the halfway point in his or her term, they may be eligible to complete the full term.

Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court Judges

As the Supreme Court is the highest court in Florida, it holds a lot of responsibility. The jurisdiction is set out in the Constitution, however, there is some flexibility in which the Legislature can add or remove specific sections of a case.

The responsibilities of the Supreme Court include reviewing final orders for death penalty sentences, district court decisions that declare a State statute or provision of the State Constitution invalid, bond validations, and specific orders that are set by the Public Service Commission on utility rates and services.

The Supreme Court reviews categories on judgments, decisions, and questions of law certified to it by the district courts of appeal and federal appellate courts. In addition, they are able to use “extraordinary writs” of prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus to complete exercises of their jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court decides on rules which govern the practice and procedure of all of the courts in Florida. They are in charge of regulating the admission and discipline of lawyers, and disciplining and removing judicial officers in Florida.

Out of the seven justices, five are in necessary for a quorum, and four have to concur for there to be a decision of the court. This means that there cannot be any action taken by the Supreme Court until at least four members agree to the decision and at least five of the members have participated in the decision.

As far as the cases that the Supreme Court hears, it is mandatory for the members to review the final orders of the following:

  • The lower courts that have imposed the death penalty
  • District court decisions on declaring a state statute or provision of the state constitution invalid
  • Bond validations
  • Actions of statewide agencies, relating to public utilities

In the 2020 year, the Supreme Court was responsible for hearing 1,903 cases that were added to the docket.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Voting for a new Supreme Court judge will ultimately have an impact on cases for criminal defendants. It is important to have an understanding of the process and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in Florida to better understand the justice system.

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, make it your first priority to reach out to an experienced defense attorney in your area. Navigating the legal world can be a daunting task, but a skilled attorney can help. Don Pumphrey and his legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across the state of Florida for various cases. They are willing to stand in your corner and fight for your freedom. Don’t hesitate to call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today for a free consultation.

Written by Karissa Key

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