Supreme Court Declines to Address Authority to Make Upcoming Appointments
The Florida Supreme Court dismissed a case that would have shed light on Governor Rick Scott’s ability to name three replacement justices as his term expires in January 19. The end of three justices’ terms will coincide with Governor Scott’s expected last day in office, and of course the first day in office for his successor as soon as the transition of power takes place.
In political circles, whether the authority to appoint the justices in this scenario belongs to Governor Scott or to his successor has been the subject of much speculation and uncertainty. Although the Governor has not dwelled on this point, which is still more than a year away, he has repeatedly indicate that he expects to fulfill his obligation to name the replacement justices. Others, however, believe the power is (or should be) held be a successor. This tension sets up what one Supreme Court justice termed a “constitutional crisis.”
The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause filed a legal action seeking to bring clarity to the issue. However, the Florida Supreme Court determined by a 6-1 vote that the case is not ripe for review because Governor Scott has not yet acted on the appointments. “A party must wait until a government official has acted before seeking relief pursuant to quo warranto because a threatened exercise of power which is allegedly outside of that public official’s authority may not ultimately occur,” the court wrote in a 17-page ruling. “To address whether quo warranto relief is warranted under such premature circumstances would amount to an impermissible advisory opinion based upon hypothetical facts.”
Only one justice dissented, arguing that it is regrettable the court decided that challenged conduct must have already produced a “constitutional crisis and calamitous result” before judicial review is available.