The Florida Bar opposes term limits for any state court judges in Florida, either on the trial or appellate bench. The Bar’s Board of Governors unanimously approved the recommendation of its Legislation Committee to adopt an official legislative position opposing judicial term limits at all levels of Florida’s state court system during its meeting of Dec. 4, 2015. The issue arose when joint resolutions were introduced in the Florida House and Senate to send a constitutional amendment to voters setting term limits for Supreme Court justices and district courts of appeal judges.
“We heard from our members, and this position has their broad support,” said Mike Tanner, chair of the Legislation Committee. “It was done with respect to the Legislature and the other branches of government, but we believe this is best for the citizens of the state of Florida.”
The Young Lawyers Division and the Business Law, Appellate Practice, and Trial Lawyer sections of The Florida Bar had taken steps to oppose the term limits. With the Board of Governors’ action, these sections and all others now can advocate the Bar’s position.
According to the National Center for State Courts, no other state in the U.S. has term limits for state court appellate judges. Only New Mexico probate judges, who do not have to be lawyers, are subject to term limits, and that may be because of a drafting error.
A few state legislatures have considered judicial term limit measures in recent years, but no such bills have passed.
The proposed joint resolutions would limit appellate judges to no more than two appearances on the merit retention ballot, which, depending on when they were appointed, would give a maximum term of between 12 and 15 years.