Constitution Day 2017

Constitution Day 2017

Fair Courts = Justice Warm Up Exercise When you walk into the courtroom and face the judge what qualities or characteristics are most important to you? Characteristics of Judges

What characteristics are most important to you? Respectful/Understanding Knowledge of the law Honesty/Integrity Impartial/Unbiased Fair minded Neutral Professional demeanor Attentive What would you add?

What does the Constitution do? What if one entity or branch was able to and interpret and apply the law make the law enforce the law Total power in one branch of the

government The Role of the Judicial Branch Resolve disputes through a legal process; Interpret and apply the law; Determine if a law is unconstitutional; Protect the rights of the people. How are judges different from other elected officials? Legislators make decisions based on the needs/desires of their

constituents or voters, their own beliefs, or their political partys agenda. Judges must follow the law and should not be influenced by politics, special interest groups, money, public opinion or their own personal beliefs. The Courts The Judicial Branch was not intended to be a political or representative branch.

Prior to the American Revolution. Historical Concerns Over Judicial Selection Colonial Era Judges selected by the King. Colonists outlined complaints in the Declaration of Independence citing how the King abused power and controlled the judiciary.

He (King George III) has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. Selection of Federal Judges APPOINTMENTS IN THE FEDERAL COURT SYSTEM

FEDERAL JUDGES The U. S. Constitution states in Article III that federal judges are to be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Not elected Serve life appointments State constitutions or statutes set methods for selecting state judges

States utilize one of three models: Elections Either Partisan or Nonpartisan Appointments Different models in different states Hybrid models Merit Selection and Retention Using Nominating Commissions to review candidates, followed by appointment and retention elections

Judicial Selection in the United States How Judges are Selected in Florida Today COUNTY AND CIRCUIT COURTS (TRIAL) Nonpartisan, contested elections. (No political party affiliation) County and Circuit Court vacancies before the end of the 6 year term are filled through merit selection

DISTRICT COURTS OF APPEAL AND FLORIDA SUPREME COURT (APPELLATE COURTS) Merit Selection system using Judicial Nominating Commissions to review and evaluate applicants. Submit 3-6 recommendations to the Governor based on qualifications. Methods of judicial selection are addressed in Article V of the Florida Constitution.

A Matter of Judicial Merit WHAT IS MERIT SELECTION? WHAT IS MERIT RETENTION? A thorough review process for selecting judges based on their qualifications = based on merit. Process for voters to decide if a judge should remain in office after they have been appointed through the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC)

A panel of nine members (JNC) screens candidates and selects three to six names to recommend to the Governor. The Governor selects one of the applicants for appointment. Retention election held after first full year in office and then every six years. Each judge has previously been evaluated and vetted through the JNC process. Merit

Selection and Retention The merit selection and retention process was designed to reduce outside influences on the judiciary.

Political pressures Personal opinions Popular opinions Corruption Other influences Once selected, how are judges accountable?

Oath of Office sworn to support, protect and defend the US Constitution and Florida Constitution The Appellate Process judicial decisions can be appealed to a higher court for review (appellate review) Judges must follow the Constitution (US and State), statutes/sentencing guidelines, case law (precedent), rules (court and procedural), etc. Once selected, how are judges accountable? Code of Judicial Conduct standards of ethical conduct for judges.

Reports of misconduct directed to the Judicial Qualifications Commission for investigation. JQC is an independent body. Judges can be disciplined (from reprimands to removal from bench) for violations of Code of Conduct. Elections and Merit Selection and Retention Impeachment under the Florida Constitution Code of Judicial Conduct for the State of Florida includes: Preamble Definitions Canons

Visit decisions/ethics/index.shtml Canon 1. A Judge Shall Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary Canon 2. A Judge Shall Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in all of the Judge's Activities Canon 3. A Judge Shall Perform the Duties of Judicial Office Impartially and Diligently Canon 4. A Judge Is Encouraged to Engage in Activities to Improve the Law, the Legal System, and the Administration of Justice Canon 5. A Judge Shall Regulate Extrajudicial Activities to Minimize

the Risk of Conflict With Judicial Duties Canon 6. Fiscal Matters of a Judge Shall be Conducted in a Manner That Does Not Give the Appearance of Influence or Impropriety; etc. Canon 7. A Judge or Candidate for Judicial Office Shall Refrain From Inappropriate Political Activity Cases pending as of 6/26/17 Why should you care about who the judges are in your community? 95

% of all cases in the United States are filed in state courts. 100 5.00% 95.00% State Courts Federal Courts

cases coming before nearly 30,000 state court judges MILLION each year. Brennan Center for Justice What issues may impact fair and impartial courts today? Political attempts to influence judicial selection processes Infusion of special interest money into judicial elections Pressure on judicial candidates to take positions on issues or promise specific rulings Threats of removal from office or impeachment for decisions in

controversial cases Reduction of state court funding Labeling of judges THE DANGER OF LABELS The Dangers of Labels Judicial decision making OR Judicial Activism

Fair and impartial OR Conservative/ Liberal Interpreting the law (determining OR

Legislating from the Bench/Judge made law what a statute means or says) What do you think? When you walk into the

courtroom and face the judge what factors should NOT influence the judges decision in your case? Public opinion about the issue Political demands Your political party affiliation The position of special interest groups on the issue Media reports Personal perspectives or affiliations of the judge Money or special interests

The Informed Voters Project: Of the National Association of Women Judges Resource of accurate, nonpartisan judicial branch information Support system for those seeking to protect fair and impartial courts Platform for the discussion on the importance of judicial independence Visit us online at

Contact us: [email protected] Visit the Informed Voters Project website at Like us on Facebook at Informed Voters, Fair Judges National Association of Women Judges Follow us on social media! Informed Voters, Fair Judges Project National Association of Women Judges


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