TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Gov. Rick Scott is still pushing for an investigation into possible wrongdoing by three Florida Supreme Court justices even after a veteran prosecutor dismissed it as “trifle.''
State Attorney Willie Meggs said Thursday there was no reason to continue the investigation ordered by Scott, who called on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to see if justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince broke the law when they had campaign papers notarized by office help just before the April filing deadline.
Scott could replace the justices with his own picks if they are removed from the ballot or fail to win retention .
“Gov. Scott makes a habit of ignoring any outcomes that don't play to his advantage,'' said Elizabeth Hernandez, president of a newly formed organization Defend Justice from Politics. “A fair and impartial judiciary is our last defense against politicians who will be satisfied with nothing short of absolute power.''
FDLE's investigation determined that the other four justices also used court personnel to notarize financial disclosure forms _ a practice widely used across state government largely for convenience.
Scott, however, is looking to a suit in a Leon County court filed by an out-of-state legal group to disqualify Lewis, Pariente and Quince. All three were appointed by the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, although Quince's appointment was endorsed by then-incoming Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican.
The Southeastern Legal Foundation filed a complaint last week for declaratory and injunctive relief and asked a Leon County court to prohibit Secretary of State Ken Detzner from placing names of the three justices on November's statewide ballot. The group said the justices may have violated ethics rules because they raise money to urge voters to keep them on the bench.
“Whatever the ruling, we will accept it and act accordingly,'' Scott said Thursday after Meggs' said no law was violated based on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's investigation into the justices actions.
Appeals judges and Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor in Florida, but instead of running for re-election, they are subject to an up or down merit retention vote. Scott said last week that the justices should follow the law and wouldn't say whether he'd vote to retain any of the three who he had investigated.