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State of Florida

History of Reform Efforts: Florida

Formal Changes Since Inception

1845
Circuit court judges, who also served on the supreme court, were elected by the legislature. Judges served initial five-year terms, followed by life tenure if reelected.

1848
Terms of circuit court judges reduced to eight years.

1851
Legislature provided for the supreme court to have its own justices.

1853
Supreme court justices elected by the people to six-year terms.

1861
Supreme court justices appointed by the governor with senate consent to six-year terms. Circuit court judges elected by the people to six-year terms.

1868
Judges appointed by the governor with senate consent. Supreme court justices appointed for life; circuit court judges appointed to eight-year terms.

1875
Terms of circuit court judges reduced to six years.

1885
Supreme court justices elected by the people to six-year terms.

1942
Constitutional amendment reinstated elections for circuit court judges.

1957
District courts of appeal created.

1971
Legislature established nonpartisan judicial elections. Governor Askew took the first step toward merit selection with an executive order calling for the use of nominating commissions to fill judicial vacancies.

1972
Voters approved a constitutional amendment calling for the use of nominating commissions to fill vacancies at all levels of the judiciary.

1976
Voters approved a constitutional amendment calling for merit selection and retention of appellate judges. The reform effort was spearheaded by Governor Askew, Chief Justice Overton, and State Representative D'Alemberte.

1998
Voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing circuits and counties to opt for merit selection and retention of trial judges. The question would be put to voters in the 2000 election.

2001
Legislature revised the statute relating to the appointment of members of the state's judicial nominating commissions. Prior to the change, three lawyer members were appointed by the Florida Bar, three members were appointed by the governor and could be either lawyers or nonlawyers, and three nonlawyer members were selected by the other six commission members. Under the revision, the governor appoints all nine members of each commission. Four of the lawyer members must be appointed from lists of nominees submitted by the Florida Bar. The law also requires the governor to consider racial, ethnic, and gender diversity, as well as geographic distribution, when making appointments to the commission.