Here’s What You Need to Know About Judicial Retention Races

As you fill out your election ballot this fall, you’ll likely notice several judicial retention races that you need to weigh in on.

Who are these judges? Who elected them anyway? Why do we vote to retain (or not retain) them?

These are all questions that voters ask us almost every election, and we have answers! Here’s what you need to know about judicial retention races on the November ballot.

What Are Judicial Retention Races?

In Florida, justices on the State Supreme Court and judges on the District Courts of Appeal are appointed by the governor from a list compiled by a Judicial Nominating Commission. They must be residents of the state and admitted to the Florida Bar for at least the past 10 years.  

After appointment, they serve at least one year and are then placed on the next general election ballot for merit retention or dismissal, in a nonpartisan manner. This allows voters to decide if they should remain on the bench or not.  

If retained, they serve for six years and are then placed on the ballot again. They are remain on the bench (barring dismissal by the voters) until they reach retirement age of 70.

Judicial Retention Race for Florida Supreme Court Justice

The Florida Supreme Court is responsible for deciding all appeals from Florida District Courts of Appeal, disagreements between District Courts and all death penalty appeals.

Additionally, the Supreme Court oversees administration of the entire Florida court system. There are seven justices on the Florida Supreme Court. Terms last for 6 years.  

Only one Supreme Court justice is on the 2018 ballot: Judge Alan Lawson.

Biographical and background information on Supreme Court justices can be found at the Florida Supreme Court website or at the Florida Bar Association.

The Judicial Code of Conduct does not allow a justice to express a political affiliation or to say how they will decide any future case. However, you may see how they have voted in prior specific cases on the Opinions page of the Supreme Court website.

Judicial Retention Race for the District Courts of Appeal

Florida’s District Courts of Appeal are responsible for providing a review of decisions by county and circuit courts by a multi-judge panel. This ensures that there have been no errors in decisions and that all rights and liberties are protected.

Florida has five districts, each with from 10 to 16 judges. Pinellas County is located in the Second District, which is headquartered in Lakeland, Florida.

Four judges on the Second District Court of of Appeals are up for a retention vote this year. Those judges are: Anthony K. Black, Darryl C. Casanueva, Edward C. LaRose, Susan H. Rothstein-Youakim.

Biographical information on these judges can be found on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal’s website or at the Florida Bar Association.  

As with Supreme Court justices, these judges may not express a political affiliation or opinions on cases that may come before them.

Who Decides Whether Justices Are Put Up for Retention?

The Florida Bar Association polls its members to rate judges and justices who are up for retention every two years. This poll is supervised by the Constitutional Judiciary Committee of the Florida Bar.

This allows a group of people who are aware of how a judge functions in the court system to offer an opinion on their competence. You can see the results of this poll on the Florida Bar’s website.

You can also learn more about the judicial retention races by checking out the Florida Bar Voter Guide.

Answer Your Voting Questions Before You Head to the Polls

You don’t have to be a legal expert to understand your ballot! We can help you understand who you are voting for, the issues they stand on, and why they are on the ballot.

If you have any more questions, reach out to the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area or North Pinellas County or check out our Voter Guide for accurate, non-partisan information that prepares you to vote!

Amelia Tait-Kamradt is a retired microbiologist who has recently moved to St. Petersburg and is educating herself in our community.