Upset about health care ruling, some Florida conservatives now want to throw 2 Supreme Court Justices off the bench

Last week CL was in Tallahassee, where as part of a reporters conference we heard Justice Pariente discuss that epithet "judicial activist," and why the phrase was generally only used by people opposed to a particular court's point of view (though the phrase has generally been used to criticize liberal judges, as Pariente remarked last week, conservatives justices on the U.S. Supreme Court were castigated last January by President Obama and liberals for being "activist" in the ruling on the Citizens case regarding campaign finance reform).

The court ruled on the initiative, which was voted onto the ballot by the Legislature and known as the Health Care Freedom Act  (sponsored by Rep. Scott Plakon and Sen. Carey Baker) which would have allowed Floridians to vote in November on a constitutional amendment.

A handful of other states have the measure on their ballot this fall, while in Missouri last month such a measure was approved by more than 71% of the voters.

Florida law requires that Supreme Court justices face a merit retention vote by the voters every six years, and in almost every case, the justices have been retained, rarely getting less than 80% of the vote.

On August 31 on a 5-2 vote, the Florida Supreme Court rejected a ballot initiative that sought to amend the state's constitution to establish that Florida residents have a right to refuse to purchase mandatory health insurance, the mandated requirement in the new federal health care reform law that became the law of the land earlier this year.

The justices said, "The ballot language put forth … contains misleading and ambiguous language. Currently our only recourse is to strike the proposed constitutional amendment from the ballot."

Two of the justices who voted in the majority, James E.C. Perry and Jorge Labarta, are up for merit retention in November, and an activist group says they are now actively campaigning to have both men rejected at the polls.

An Orlando based group calling themselves Citizen2Citizen, in conjunction with the Central Florida Tea Party Council, are targeting the two justices, who along with the more conservative Ricky Polston and Charles Canady (the only two justices to vote to retain the measure) will be on the ballot in November.  In their press release the group says that some the justices are going against comments they made several years ago:

Perhaps most notably, the Supreme Court disagreed with the State's argument to simply follow its own unanimous 2004 ruling, when the Court ordered the amendment text (not containing problematic words in shorter ballot summary) of a legislatively-proposed amendment to be placed on the ballot in lieu of a ballot summary. The outcome was reached despite the fact that three current Justices joined in the unanimous 2004 decision (Pariente, Lewis and Quince). By allowing the unchallenged amendment text to be presented to voters only for proposals the Court "likes" (2004), as opposed to uniformly doing so in respect of proposals "liked" by a supermajority of their representatives, the Court is able to masquerade as a neutral arbiter merely protecting voters, when in fact they are deciding for them ("legislating from bench").

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