Some FAQ’s regarding Merit Retention Elections

1. Why are appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices on the ballot this year?
Florida appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices are on the ballot in nonpartisan elections every six years so voters can determine whether they should stay in office. This regular vote is called “merit retention.” This year, three Supreme Court justices (out of seven) and 15 appeals court judges (out of 61) have merit retention elections.

2. What do “Yes” and “No” votes mean?
A “Yes” vote means you want the judge or justice to stay in office. A “No” vote means you want the judge to be removed from office. The majority of voters decides.

3. Do appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices have opponents?
No. Your vote will determine whether each judge listed should stay in office. They are not running against opponents or each other. Merit retention elections are non-partisan.

4. How do appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices get into office?
The governor appoints them from lists submitted by Judicial Nominating Commissions, which screen candidates and make recommendations based on the merits of applicants. Newly appointed judges go before voters for the first time within two years after appointment. If the voters retain them, they then go on the ballot again every six years.

5. Which courts are subject to merit retention elections?
The Florida Supreme Court and the five District Courts of Appeal are subject to merit retention elections.

6. Do appeals court judges or justices run election campaigns?
Usually they cannot campaign or even raise money. However, they can do those things if they certify through the Secretary of State, Division of Elections, that their candidacies have drawn active opposition.

7. Can judges who commit unethical acts be removed from office?
Yes. This can result after an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which is an independent agency created by the Florida Constitution solely to investigate alleged misconduct by Florida state judges. Through this system, judges have been removed from office for ethical violations. For more information, visit the Judicial Qualifications Commission website.

8. Have any political parties endorsed the justices and judges?
A Florida statute (Section 105.09) makes it illegal for a political party or partisan political organization to endorse, support or assist any candidate in a campaign for election to judicial office.

9. How have the appeals court judges and justices voted in cases?
Complete records of their votes can be found on the Opinions pages of the websites for the District Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Visit the appellate court websites.

10. Can I watch videos of the justices and appeals court judges at work?
Yes. Court arguments are webcast live and archived on court websites, which are accessible via courts websites. For the Second District Court of Appeal, video can be requested to be mailed.

11. What are the appeals court judges’ and justices’ stands on particular issues?
Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct forbids the judges and justices from saying how they will decide future cases, because they must remain truly impartial. However, their votes in prior cases are available on the court website Opinions pages.

12. How can I learn more about the judges and justices backgrounds?
Biographies of the judges and justices are available on their courts’ websites.