Our Dear Friend Mike Lambrix left us on October 5, 2017
He went from the Darkness to the Light..

Monday, February 2, 2009

Political Fight over Florida Supreme Court

Anyone who might still doubt that politics’ control the administration of justice can now bow their heads and accept the error of their ways. To be honest, the ignorance of the public often amazes me. It’s a lot like looking out upon a vast prairie of ostrich’s, each with their head deliberately impaled in the ground – they can’t see it because they don’t want to see it. Ignorance is bliss and they’d rather ignore the inconvenient truth that our American judicial system is completely corrupted by special interest politics than be compelled to accept a truth that would haunt their own social conscience.

At a national level there is simply no question that our elected President’s hand-pick judicial nominee’s for positions on the Federal courts, choosing only those who reflect their own ideology. Former (finally!!) President George W Bush took political corruption of the courts to a whole new level. First by stealing the presidency by having a controversial vote in Florida derided in his favor by a marginal majority of conservative justices on the US Supreme Court (Bush v. Gore, 120 Sict – (2000), and then, once politically elected by only 5 Justices to the office of President, (despite the fact that there is just no question that George W Bush lost the popular, “general” election) dear George then used his power to appoint even more ultra-conservative justices to the Court to secure a legacy of conservative ideology within the Federal Judiciary.

Now in the shadow of that circus another Bush-inspired judicial coup is unfolding in Florida and a political showdown may just follow. This story begins with the present Florida governor, “chain gang Charlie” Crist, winning election as Florida’s governor in November 2006. Governor Crist is a career ultra-conservative republican, proudly cut of the same cloth as George W Bush, who he campaigned for while at that time serving as Florida’s elected Attorney General while George W Bush ‘s younger brother Jeb Bush was governor of Florida.

Some argue that Governor Crist is nothing but a willing puppet of the mighty political cartel that empowers the Bush clan. Whether they are right or wrong, we will most likely never know. In all fairness to former Governor Bush, he has proven himself to be willing to confront conservative politicians and go “against the grain” to support wrongfully convicted men such as Alan Crotzer and William Dedge who were exonerated and released after DNA evidence established their innocence. Subsequently, Governor Crist fought conservative politicians to pass state laws providing monetary compensation to the wrongfully convicted. But although Governor Crist appears to stand his ground to “do the right thing”, at a more fundamental level there’s no question that he remains a tried and true red-blooded conservative subject to the strings that tie into the Bush cloth. Anyone who might doubt that need only look to the recent appointments Governor Crist has made to the Florida Supreme Court.

As a death-sentenced prisoner, the court’s willingness to fully and fairly hear appeals has a direct impact on my life - literally! Conservative justices such as those on the US Supreme Court (especially Justices Scalia and Thomas) will always rule in favor of the state or big corporation as the individual citizen means nothing. The greater goal of protecting the almighty “state” from the embarrassment of making a mistake, such as sending innocent people to death row, means that these conservative justices have consistently ruled that our constitution (the foundation of our protected rights) does not prohibit the state from executing the innocent Herrera v. Collins, (1993)

So the last thing I’d want to see is the Florida Supreme Court politically stacked with rabid, ultra conservative justices that have no respect for innocent lives, like those blood thirsty pro-death penalty ideological zealots who control the US Supreme Court. But that’s exactly what appears to be happening as Governor Crist is now systematically stacking the Florida Supreme Court with justices hand-picked from a list of die-hard Bush family insiders. Governor Crist has the opportunity to do what no other Governor has been able to do – in just the first two year of his first term as governor Crist is able to appoint 4 of the 7 justices on the Florida Supreme Court. This means that he will be able to pull a conservative political coup on the court, allowing that conservative ideology to control Florida law for many years yet to come.

In a previous blog article I wrote about the first Justice appointed to the court a few months ago. Charles Canady is now a Florida Supreme Court justice and there’s simply no question that the primary qualification for the appointment was that Charles Canady previously served as legal counsel to Governor Jeb Bush. Not long after that appointment Governor Crist was called upon to appoint another Justice for the Florida Supreme Court, and consistent with his conservative campaign he picked another Bush insider, Rickey Polston, to the court. As with now justice Canady, this soon-to-be Justice Polston worked in the Bush administration.

Suddenly influential politicians in Florida took notice and started speaking out against Governor Christ’s obvious campaign to stack the Florida Supreme Court with Bush administration conservative insiders. Former Florida Governor (and former US senator) Bob Graham joined forces with former American bar association president Talbot “Sandy” D’ Atemberte and others to scream “foul” in an editorial in the St Petersburg Times (“Take politics out of Florida’s Judiciary” Sunday December 28, 2008) Both Graham and D’Atemberte argued why Governor Crist should not politically corrupt the Florida Judiciary by hand-picking conservative Bush family insiders to control the court.

But just a few days later on January 2, 2009 Governor Crist responded by public ally announcing that his third appointment to the Florida Supreme Court is Jorge LaBarga, a Cuban-American from south-east (Palm Beach County) Florida. Not surprisingly Jorge LaBarga previously campaigned for Jeb Bush when he ran for governor in 1994 (see Florida Bar News, January 15, 2009 Crist names LaBarga to the Supreme Court)

But just who is Jorge LaBarga and can he fairly be labeled a “conservative”? As the article in the Florida Bar News reflects, Justice LaBarga fled his native Cuba as a child of only 11 years old. His family built a home in rural southeast Florida, where his father worked in the sugar cane fields. Justice LaBarga worked his way through the Florida State University to earn his law degree and coming out of college went to work as an asst public defender (criminal defense attorney) from 1979 to 1982.

For reasons not reported in 1982 he then jumped the fence and went from defending criminal defendants to prosecuting them. LaBarga spent 4 years as an Asst State Attorney in palm Beach County before quitting that job to go into private practice where he remained until then Democratic (not Republican) Governor Lawton Chites appointed him to the circuit (trial level) court in Palm Beach County. Justice LaBarga remained as a lower level circuit court judge for almost 12 years – until his recent appointment.

The question now is just who is Justice Jorge LaBarga? In a public statement announcing LaBarga’s appointment, Governor Crist stated that “Judge LaBarga brings to Florida’s highest court all the qualifications needed in a justice, including integrity fairness and compassion”

I suppose the truth will remain to be seen. There is no question that all 3 of the new justices appointed to the Florida Supreme Court have direct political ties to the Bush family political cartel. In the next two months Governor Crist will pick a fourth appointment to the Florida Supreme Court to replace soon to retire Justice Wells – and we can already assume that whoever Crist picks he (or she) too will have political connections to the Bush family. But perhaps Governor Crist will be wise to remember that he will have to run for re-election in 2010 if he plans to remain on as Florida’s elected governor. Does he really want to provoke a political fight that will cost him that election?

Written by Michael Lambrix.
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