The U.S. Supreme Court is not the only court where Republicans appear more than willing to steal seats that don't belong to them.
Rick Scott, Florida's Governor and Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, must not have much confidence in his own party holding onto control of the state's Executive Mansion after the November elections. He's now busy working to swipe the next Governor's power to make judicial appointments to the Sunshine State's Supreme Court, no matter who that Governor may be.
The terms of three of Florida's seven state Supreme Court Justices, Barbara J. Pariente, Peggy A. Quince, and R. Fred Lewis --- all originally appointed by Democrats, leaving four GOP-appointed Justices on the bench --- will end on January 8, 2019. Scott's term in office ends two days earlier, at midnight, on January 6, 2019. Nonetheless, he wants control of who will fill those upcoming vacancies, even after he has left office.
On Sept. 11 this year, Scott directed the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (FSC JNC) to make its nominations to fill the prospective vacancies by November 10, 2018. The Commission has set an October 8 deadline for the filing of applications by prospective nominees.
That, even after Scott's own concession, in an earlier FL Supreme Court proceeding, that a governor's power to fill a judicial vacancy does not arise until after the vacancy occurs. The Governor's order also flatly defies the Florida electorate which, in 2014, rejected a GOP ballot initiative that would have amended the Florida constitution to permit outgoing governors to fill prospective vacancies before they actually occur.
The League of Women Voters, along with Common Cause, have now filed an emergency petition [PDF] with the Florida Supreme Court, seeking to prevent Scott from usurping his successor's power to fill prospective vacancies on the court.
While Scott is in a very tight "toss up" race for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, his state directive hints at what may be an attempt to stave off the potential impact of a possible blue wave at the polls this year. In Florida, that could result in Scott's party losing control of executive power in Tallahassee. Recent polling suggests a significant prospect that Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum could become the next Governor of Florida. Gillum currently leads Republican Ron Desantis, according to the RealClearPolitics average by 3.4% in polls taken between August 29 and September 16.
UPDATE 10/15/18: The Florida Supreme Court issued an order [PDF] in which it granted the emergency writ. It expressly ruled that the next governor will have the sole authority to fill the vacancies and that Gov. Scott "exceeded his authority by directing the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission to fill these vacancies by November 10, 2018."
When they go to the polls on November 6, Florida voters will not only decide who will serve as their next governor. They will also indirectly determine who will be nominated to serve next three FL Supreme Court Justices.
More from Mark Joseph Stern, including a few caveats, here...