Interviews canceled Monday after stay lifted by judge in Tallahassee
After completing interviews of five applicants and beginning to interview the sixth, the 4th Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission suspended its work Monday morning on the direction of Gov. Rick Scott’s office.
Daniel Nordby, Scott’s general counsel, notified commission Chair Patrick Kilbane that 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge Charles Dodson lifted Monday morning the stay on a motion he granted on Wednesday that ordered Scott to suspend the nomination and appointment process to replace 4th Circuit Judge Robert Foster, who is resigning his seat on the bench effective Dec. 31.
Scott filed an appeal of Dodson’s ruling with the 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday.
The governor’s office will seek to reinstate the stay as part of the appellate process, said attorney Paul Renner, who is representing the commission.
“The common sense approach would have been to allow the JNC to complete its work and keep the nominations confidential until the DCA rules on the case,” he said Monday.
Jacksonville attorney David Trotti filed a motion in the 4th Circuit seeking to enjoin the commission from interviewing candidates, but that motion was denied by Circuit Judge Waddell Wallace in Jacksonville.
Trotti filed the motion that Dodson heard in Tallahassee against Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who is directed to restore Trotti’s name to the ballot for the Group 6 seat on the bench for the Aug. 28 primary election.
Foster notified Scott and 4th Circuit Chief Judge Mark Mahon on April 2 that he is resigning because he has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 and his last day in office would be Dec. 31, four business days before his term in office expires.
On April 23, Kilbane was informed by Nordby that the governor wanted the commission to convene to fill the vacancy created by Foster’s resignation and that the commission submit the names of six nominees by June 22.
Kilbane published on May 1 a public notice stating that the commission was seeking applicants for the vacancy, with a deadline of 5 p.m. May 23.
On May 3, Trotti filed as a candidate for Foster’s seat and paid to the state Division of Elections the $5,843.20 qualifying fee.
Trotti on May 7 sent an email to Kilbane with a letter attached requesting the commission cease and desist “until such time that this matter is resolved by the Court.”
Trotti also advised Kilbane that he had filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment in Leon County.
On May 17, 4th Circuit Judge Waddell Wallace signed an order denying Trotti’s petition, finding that Trotti could not demonstrate that he is likely to prevail on the merits of the case.
Trotti contends in his action that Foster’s replacement should be elected rather than appointed by the governor. Trotti was the only candidate to qualify for the seat.
“We’re confident that Mr. Trotti does not have a case that will stand up under Florida law. The case law is very clear and Judge Wallace recognized that,” Renner said Monday.
Kilbane said he couldn’t predict if or when the commission might reinstate the interview process.
“The judge ordered the governor to stop the JNC process. We take our orders from the governor. All we know is full stop,” he said.