Three veteran Florida Supreme Court justices could possibly face a criminal investigation and legal action over the handling of their campaigns to remain on the bench. Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who has been critical of some of the court’s past rulings, on Tuesday asked a state law-enforcement agency to decide whether to investigate the justices over their use of state employees to help finish election-related paperwork. Meanwhile, a conservative legal group is raising questions about whether the justices may be violating ethics rules because they are raising money and urging voters to keep them on the bench. “No man is above the law, particularly those charged with enforcing the law,” said Shannon Gosseling, executive director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation. Voters this fall will decide whether Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince deserve new six-year terms. Two of the justices were appointed by the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles; Quince was jointly appointed by Chiles and then-incoming-Gov. Jeb Bush.
The three justices nearly missed the deadline to qualify for the ballot in April. The seven-member court abruptly put a hearing on hold for more than an hour to allow the justices to finish their paperwork and turn it in to state elections officials with just minutes to spare. The justices wound up using court employees to notarize the paperwork. A state law prohibits candidates for office from using state employees to help their campaign during working hours, although it is unclear if that law applies to judges. A violation of the law is a misdemeanor.