Gov. Charlie Crist appoints to the Florida Supreme Court two appellate court judges with conservative political credentials, and the left predictably starts shouting this augurs the end of civilization in Florida as we know it.
Never mind that Charles T. Canady and Ricky L. Polston replace two Jeb Bush appointees who were the courts most conservative members. Unless all court appointees march in lockstep to the lefts political agenda in all aspects of their thinking, theyll be demonized as unfit to serve.
Never mind that both new justices have demonstrated legal competence. Canady has a law degree from Yale. He served in Congress on the Judiciary Committee. He also demonstrated integrity by retiring from Congress in 2000, honoring a voluntary term-limit pledge he made to constituents. Not all GOP congressmen who took the pledge did so.
Never Mind that Polston graduated Summa Cum Laude from Florida State, or that as an appellate judge he sided with the ACLU in a decision making it easier for felons to have their civil rights restored.
Never mind that Barry Richard, a Democrat, and one of the most respected litigators in the country, was quoted by the St. Petersburg Times as saying of Polston: He looks at every case for its intrinsic value, and thats the best kind of judge.
Richard nailed that one. And the best Supreme Court justices have a responsibility of making sure theyre on solid constitutional grounds before undoing the work of the Legislature, which consists of the elected representatives of the people.
Courts have served a vital role in in protecting and promoting the rights of minorities. But judges and justices must guard against hubris, and recognize they dont have an untrammeled right to thwart the work of the majority as expressed by lawmakers.
Polston has been criticized by some for a decision he made as an appellate judge supporting a public school voucher plan passed by the Legislature that would have provided public funds to parochial schools. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the ruling.
The Florida constitution is tougher than the U.S. Constitution when it comes to church and state separation, so the Supremes may have been right. The voucher issue, however, certainly is one on which reasonable people can see ambiguity, especially since public funds go to students attending parochial colleges.
But dont expect the reasonableness from left when it comes to assessing appointments to the states high court.
Kingsley Guy duels the issues with Stephen L. Goldstein on alternate Fridays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.