Florida bar poll on upcoming merit retention elections

A poll of Florida Bar members regarding the merit retention election of five state Supreme Court justices and 28 appellate court judges indicates support for all to be retained. Results showed recommendations for retention ranging from 86 percent to 59 percent approval. The confidential poll seeks to find whether attorneys who know the most about these jurists believe they should continue in their jobs. The retention election is on the ballot in the Nov. 8 general election.

Florida law requires Florida Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges to be placed on the ballot in nonpartisan elections within the first year of appointment and then every six years for voters to determine whether they should remain on their courts. These are called “merit retention” elections. A “Yes” vote means a voter wants the judge or justice to remain on the court for another six-year term. A “No” vote means a voter wants the judge or justice to be removed from the court. The majority of voters decides.

Frequently asked questions about merit retention, the biographies of the judges who will be on the ballot, and these poll results are available at www.floridabar.org in The Vote’s in Your Court section linked from the homepage. A voter guide posted there also includes FAQs on trial court elections and voluntarily submitted self-disclosure statements of those in run-offs on November’s ballot.

For this poll, a ballot was mailed in August to all lawyers residing and practicing in Florida asking whether the incumbent appeals court jurists should be retained. Lawyers taking part in the poll were asked to consider eight attributes: quality and clarity of judicial opinions; knowledge of the law; integrity; judicial temperament; impartiality; freedom from bias/prejudice; demeanor; and courtesy. The Bar sent out 78,405 ballots to in-state members in good standing; 3,626 lawyers participated. Only responses by lawyers saying they had considerable or limited knowledge of the judges are included in the poll results. The survey was voluntary and does not represent a scientific sampling of Bar members.

For the Florida Supreme Court, poll results indicate support for retention of:

  • Charles T. Canady, by 73%
  • John D. Couriel, 63%
  • Jamie Grosshans, 59%
  • Jorge Labarga, 85%
  • Ricky Polston, 74%

For the 1st District Court of Appeal, poll results indicate support for retention of:

  • Ross L. Bilbrey, 68%
  • Susan L. Kelsey, 69%
  • Robert E. Long, Jr., 63%
  • Lori S. Rowe, 71%
  • Thomas “Bo” Winokur, 63%

The 1st DCA covers the counties of Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Calhoun, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Nassau, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Wakulla, Walton and Washington. It includes judicial circuits 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 and 14.

For the 2nd District Court of Appeal, poll results indicate support for retention of:

  • Patricia Kelly, 78%
  • Nelly N. Khouzam, 86%
  • Suzanne Youmans Labrit, 70%
  • Matthew C. Lucas, 77%
  • Robert James Morris, 80%
  • Stevan T. Northcutt, 85%
  • John K. Stargel, 64%
  • Craig C. Villanti, 81%

The 2nd DCA covers Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties. It includes judicial circuits 6, 10, 12, 13 and 20.

For the 3rd District Court of Appeal, poll results indicate support for retention of:

  • Alexander Spicola Bokor, 73%
  • Edwin A. Scales, 80%

The 3rd DCA covers Miami-Dade (circuit 11) and Monroe (circuit 16) counties.

For the 4th District Court of Appeal, poll results indicate support for retention of:

  • Ed Artau, 69%
  • Cory J. Ciklin, 80%
  • Dorian K. Damoorgian, 81%
  • Jonathan D. Gerber, 84%
  • Robert M. Gross, 86%
  • Spencer D. Levine, 80%
  • Melanie G. May, 84%

The 4th DCA covers the counties of Broward, Indian River, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Martin. It includes judicial circuits 15, 17 and 19.

For the 5th District Court of Appeal, poll results indicate support for retention of:

  • Jay P. Cohen, 79%
  • James A. Edwards, 72%
  • Brian D. Lambert, 71%
  • Mary Alice Nardella, 62%
  • Daniel E. Traver, 70%
  • Carrie Ann Wozniak, 69%

The 5th DCA encompasses Brevard, Citrus, Flagler, Hernando, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns, Sumter and Volusia counties. It includes judicial circuits, 5, 7, 9 and 18.

Elections Services Co. of Hauppauge, N.Y., conducted the poll for The Florida Bar.  Since 1989, ESC has conducted thousands of elections for membership organizations, universities, and trade and professional organizations. All ballot votes were confidential, with no identification of the voters attached.

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