Fair Courts E-lert: Black Bar Associations Advocate for More Diversity in FL; Mandatory Retirement Age Debated

July 24, 2015

JUDICIAL DIVERSITY

Black Bar Associations Advocate for More Diversity on Florida’s Bench

South Florida’s five black bar associations have formed a judicial diversity initiative with the goal of “increasing the number of black federal and state judges in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties,” writes Julie Kay for the Daily Business Review. In all three counties, the percentage of black circuit and county judges is significantly lower than the percentage of black citizens. “It is these numbers—plus the fact that Gov. Rick Scott has appointed only two black circuit judges statewide in more than four years—that are causing concern among the bar groups.” The initiative’s “top priority is to get a black woman on the Miami-Dade circuit bench,” which currently has no black judges.  Fourteen members of the initiative recently sat in on interviews for Miami-Dade Circuit Court candidates, conducted by the judicial nominating commission (JNC) tasked with making recommendations to the governor.  Following these interviews, the JNC recommended two of the six black finalists. While participating in the interview process, initiative members “discovered another potential troubling issue: the lack of diversity on the JNCs themselves. That's an issue they also plan to address.”

JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE

OPINION: Mandatory Retirement Age Decreases Experience and Wisdom of Courts

Former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer Tom Campbell recently weighed in on the judicial retirement age limit debate in an opinion piece for the Gaston Gazette in anticipation of North Carolina Superior Court Judge Howard “Howdy” Manning, Jr.’s impending mandatory retirement at age 72. Following a 1990s North Carolina Supreme Court decision addressing school funding, “then-Chief Justice Burley Mitchell assigned Manning the task of adjudicating [the case] and assuring [North Carolina] children receive the ‘sound basic education’ [the] Constitution dictates. Mitchell told Manning he would likely spend the rest of his career with this case.” As a result, Campbell asserts that “Manning knows more about public education in our state than most anyone,” and when he is forced to retire, the state will “miss his wisdom and expertise.” Campbell argues “there is no compelling reason why [the mandatory retirement] age couldn’t be 75, 80 or even [none at all]. . . . We should at least raise the retirement age lest we lose the experience and wisdom of seasoned jurists like Howdy Manning.”

Poll Shows Most Americans Support Term Limits for U.S. Supreme Court Justices

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that most Americans favor term limits for U.S. Supreme Court justices, reports Lawrence Hurley. “Support for the 10-year term limit proposed by the poll was bipartisan, with 66 percent saying they favored such a change while 17 percent supported life tenure.” Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan group advocating for judges to voluntarily step down after 18 years, said, “[i]t's not surprising that Supreme Court terms limits are supported across party lines since, as a nation, we've always felt it's wrong for a handful of individuals to hold on to immense power for decades on end, as is the current trend at the high court.” Reuters/IPSOS conducted the poll in July after the Court “legalized same-sex marriage nationwide and rejected a conservative group's challenge to Democratic President Barack Obama's healthcare law.”

Oklahoma Lawmaker Argues Against Judicial Impeachment

In a Tulsa World opinion piece, Oklahoma State Rep. Doug Cox (R-District 5) reacts to the state supreme court’s recent ruling calling for the removal of a Ten Commandments statue on the state capitol grounds. In light of the decision, some lawmakers called for the impeachment of the state supreme court justices, but Cox says, “I do not want to impeach our Supreme Court justices.” Cox describes the relationship between the Oklahoma legislature and the supreme court as “a strange one,” and says, “[a]s long as we like the Court’s rulings, they are great . . . [b]ut if we do not like a ruling they make, suddenly they are ‘making laws rather than just determining constitutionality.’” Cox is “open to looking at modifying the clause involved in [Oklahoma’s] constitution so that the Ten Commandments can remain [on the capitol grounds],” but if that amendment would “leave the door wide open for anyone to put a monument on the Capitol grounds,” he “probably would not” vote for it.