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Your guide to the 2022 Florida Supreme Court judges

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WLRN News

Voters don’t pick Florida Supreme Court judges, but they can fire them through a nonpartisan “merit retention vote” in the November general election.

For these judges, the ballot will ask a yes or no question: Do you want the judge to be retained in office? Since the mid-70s, Florida Supreme Court and appellate judges have been appointed to six-year terms by the governor.

Judges have to go before a public “merit retention vote” within the first two years of appointment and again at the end of their term, if a judge wants to remain in the seat. If most voters say yes, they can stay in place. If most voters say no, the governor has to appoint a replacement — although no Florida judge has ever lost a retention vote.

Candidates are listed alphabetically, and the information shared in “Key Rulings” is based on news coverage in cases involving that judge. The Florida Bar approval rating is from an August poll of its members. We included the results from attorneys who said they had “considerable knowledge” of the judge in question.

Charles Canady

Appointment: Justice Charles Canady was appointed in 2008 by former Gov. Charlie Crist (then a Republican, he is currently the Democratic candidate for governor).

Key rulings: Canady was a frequent conservative dissenter when the court had a more liberal-leaning majority, including in a 2016 ruling that blocked a 24-hour waiting period to get an abortion. He was also one of two dissenters to the court’s decision upholding a requirement for a unanimous jury for the death sentence in 2016. Later that year, he appeared on former President Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court candidates.

Florida Bar poll: 69% retain, 31% not retain

John Couriel

Appointment: Justice John Couriel was appointed in 2020 by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Key rulings: A key DeSantis pick in cementing the Supreme Court’s current conservative-leaning majority, Couriel has agreed with rulings that could make it harder for people to sue tobacco companies for smoking-related disease and kept a challenge to DeSantis’ redistricting in the lower courts.

Florida Bar poll: 62% retain, 38% not retain

Jamie Grosshans

Appointment:  Justice Jamie Grosshans was appointed in 2020 by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Key rulings: Since joining the bench, Grosshans has largely sided with the conservative majority, including rejecting a challenge to charter schools’ getting voter-approved tax funds and a challenge to DeSantis-drawn redistricting maps. Though an infrequent dissenter, she did join Justices Labarga and Lawson in opposing a ruling that sided with the Florida Bar and admonished a traffic ticket clinic.

Florida Bar poll: 55% retain, 45% not retain

Jorge Labarga

Appointment: Justice Jorge Labarga was appointed in 2008 by former Gov. Charlie Crist (then a Republican, currently the Democratic candidate for governor).

Key rulings: The most moderate justice currently sitting on the conservative bench, Labarga was the only dissenter in a 2020 decision that blocked a new, broader intellectual disability standard from back-applying to an 1980s death row case. Larbarga said the ruling results in “an increased risk that certain individuals may be executed.” He was also the only dissenter in a Supreme Court decision to stay out of a lower court challenge of DeSantis’ redistricting plan.

Florida Bar poll: 87% retain, 13% not retain

Ricky Polston

Appointment: Justice Ricky Polston was appointed in 2008 by former Gov. Charlie Crist (then a Republican, currently the Democratic candidate for governor).

Key rulings: Conservative-leaning Polston opposed a majority ruling that blocked a 24-hour abortion waiting period law from going into effect while it was being litigated in 2017. Polston was also the only dissenter in a ruling to create a sixth appellate court, which the other judges said was necessary to compensate for underrepresentation of appellate judges from Jacksonville.

Florida Bar poll: 72% retain, 28% not retain

Jacksonville Today contributed to this story.

Claire Heddles - Jacksonville Today