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Justices deciding Florida's thorniest issues keep their jobs

Election 2022 Florida
Posted at 11:34 AM, Nov 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-09 11:34:34-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — From deciding whether Florida taxpayer money can be used to fly immigrants to Democratic-led states to weighing in on the legality of an abortion prohibition after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the Florida Supreme Court is in the middle of making some of the thorniest decisions in the state.

But in the election that concluded Tuesday, it was Florida voters who judged whether five out of the seven Florida Supreme Court justices on the ballot got to keep their jobs, and they decided overwhelmingly to have them stay in their positions. The results weren’t surprising since it is exceedingly rare for Florida voters to reject justices on the state’s highest court.

The justices on the ballot this election cycle were Charles Canady, John Couriel, Jamie Grosshans, Jorge Labarga and Ricky Polston. Each justice received job-retention approval with a range of 62% to 64% of the votes cast in the nonpartisan races.

The Florida Supreme Court has several controversial cases on its docket. They include a petition to stay the recent Florida law outlawing abortions past 15 weeks of pregnancy; a request to prohibit Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis from executing a program that flies immigrants in Texas to another, Democratic-led state; and whether to uphold the death sentence of a man convicted of killing an Orlando police lieutenant.

Justices on the court are appointed by the governor, but Florida voters get to say whether they stay in office. “Yes" or “no" retention votes take place during the first general election that occurs more than a year after the justices have been named to the bench and then every six years thereafter.

Canady, Labarga and Polston were appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who served from 2007 to 2011. Crist, who switched to the Democratic party to run against DeSantis in the midterm elections that concluded Tuesday, was soundly defeated by the incumbent governor. Couriel and Grosshans were appointed by DeSantis, who took office in 2019.

The two justices not on the ballot this election cycle, Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz and Justice Renatha Francis, both DeSantis appointees, face retention votes in 2026 and 2024, respectively.