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Jax Daily Record Monday, Sep. 26, 201612:00 PM EST

Strong support for justices, judges


Florida lawyers overwhelmingly recommend the retention of Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston, and the 28 district courts of appeal judges up for merit retention on the Nov. 8 ballot, according to results of The Florida Bar’s biennial merit retention judicial poll.

Poll results show the three Supreme Court justices gaining an average approval rating of 86.3 percent. The 28 appellate judges received approval ratings from 79 to 92 percent.

“Every two years since 1978, Florida’s lawyers have taken part in an effort to help voters understand the merit retention process and guide them as they assess the justices and judges whose names appear on the ballot,” Florida Bar President Bill Schifino said.

On its webpage “The Vote’s in Your Court,”, the Bar offers its “Guide for Florida Voters,” bios of the justices and judges facing a merit retention vote, videos and links to more information.

“The merit retention poll is one more resource and an important one,” Schifino said. “It tells voters how attorneys who practice before Florida’s appeals courts view the men and women who judge cases and interpret Florida law.”

Lawyers taking part in the poll were asked to consider eight attributes in making their decisions: quality and clarity of judicial opinions, knowledge of the law, integrity, judicial temperament, impartiality, freedom from bias/prejudice, demeanor and courtesy.

The Bar mailed 74,859 ballots to in-state members in good standing; 5,967 lawyers participated.

In the Supreme Court poll, Labarga led the way with a 91 percent retention rate, followed by Canady and Polston, who each received 84 percent.

For judges in the 1st District Court of Appeal, which includes the 4th Judicial Circuit, James Wolf received an 89 percent retention rate, followed by Ross Bilbrey and Kent Wetherell, who each received 82 percent; Susan Kelsey at 81 percent; and Lori Rowe and Thomas “Bo” Winokur, with 79 percent each.

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