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The 5th Amendment and the Myth of Non-Partisanship

Lifestyle & Opinion

Does bi-partisanship still exist in our government? It is the one question Florida voters need to ask themselves when making a decision on the proposed Amendment 5 in the coming days. The massive 15-page proposal was crunched into a lengthy paragraph that will appear on the ballot on November 6th.

The main purpose of this proposal is to further divide the powers of the Florida government. The amendment seeks to make revisions to the process of electing and investigating judges, as well as limiting the repeal and readoption of court rulings.  This amendment simply gives more power to the legislative branch when it comes to judicial decisions.

That sounds great and all, but there is already a check and balance in this process. Currently, there is a panel called the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which is in charge of selecting nominations for empty seats on the state Supreme Court, as well as leading investigations into judges accused of misconduct. When there is an opening, the commission comprises a short list of nominees for the governor to choose from.  The governor then selects a judge, and they are appointed to the court. However, if Amendment 5 passes, before the judge could be selected, the senate would have to approve the nominee.

The whole idea of bringing in a third party for selection is a bit absurd, considering there is nothing wrong with the current system in place. The Judicial Qualifications Commission is an independent commission created by the state constitution for selection, investigation, and prosecution of judges. This group was made to be non-partisan, and from this, all of the judges up for nomination by the governor are protected from influence by pandering to outside sources. By introducing the Senate into the selection process, there is the very real possibility that the court will become politicized, considering the Senate would be able to reject as many nominees as they so choose, for any reason.

Another issue that has arisen from this amendment is the retraction of the two-thirds supermajority vote when it comes to the repeal and readoption of court rulings.

If the patterns of recent history have taught this country anything, it shows that those who have been elected cannot agree on anything. Two-thirds supermajority is always harder to achieve than a simple majority, usually requiring both sides of the aisle to agree on important decisions.  This is very important in the case of overturning court rulings since the emphasis should be on the constitution and not on the agenda of any one particular political party. Changing the requirement to a simple majority only plays further into the political game of ‘we have more people on our team, so we win!’  While this has been the norm for senate and house, the last place this kind of thinking should influence is the courts. They are the one thing keeping the country from being over-run by political games.

Republicans in Florida currently hold the majority in both the House and The Senate, so this is just a simple game of numbers and not fairness. The courts have struck down, again and again, Republican proposals that infringe on liberties. The proposed Amendment 5 appears to be the nothing more than a last-ditch effort by Florida Republicans to take control of the institution which has stood in its way.

So to sum this whole series of amendment articles: just vote no on everything. None of these proposals have any necessity to be added to our state constitution. The wording is nothing but a ploy to fool voters.


Image courtesy of Flickr user bloomsberries under a Creative Commons 2.0 license..

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