Judicial politics; Supreme Court to decide who should fill vacanies

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Can circuit judges ensure that their successors are appointed instead of elected?

That’s was the question before the Florida Supreme Court Tuesday.

At least some members of the court aren’t happy over how some judges are gaming the system.

In May, Attorney David Trotti filed the paperwork and paid a $5,200 fee to run for what he thought was a vacant circuit judgeship in the Jacksonville area.

“Went, filed my paperwork. They accepted it. They qualified me. Listed me as qualified candidate, then they removed me subsequently,” said Trotti.

Unknown to Trotti and the Secretary of State, who accepted the paperwork, the current judge, Robert Foster, had resigned, saying he would leave office three days early.

Now the Supreme Court must decide if the Governor or voters fill the vacancy.

“The trial judge says this was an artificial vacancy. I think that’s a good way to put it,” said Trotti’s attorney, Phil Padovano.

Previous rulings have held when a judgeship becomes vacant before the end of the term, the Governor appoints, but Justices recognized this case was different.

“My problem is with the charade that’s being played,” said Justice Fred Lewis. "He’s not really resigning. To me it’s an affront to the people of Florida.”

One option for the court is to decide a three-day resignation is playing politics, violating judicial ethics.

Afterward, Trotti’s lawyer called the judges actions a travesty.

“To have judges acting like little kings and queens, deciding how, you know, the successors are going to be picked. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” said Padovano.

If the court were to rule in David Trotti’s favor, voters still wouldn’t get a say.

Trotti was the only one who qualified, making him the winner if there is an election.

The Lawyer for Governor Rick Scott urged the jurists to allow the Governor to make the appointment, arguing previous rulings from the court sided with the Governor.