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Florida Supreme Court rules Rick Scott cannot fill judicial vacancies

Florida Governor Rick Scott (R). Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Florida Governor Rick Scott (R). Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who’s leaving office in January due to term limits, does not have the authority to fill three vacant seats on the state's Supreme Court, the court ruled on Monday.

Why it matters: This raises the stakes in Florida’s highly contested gubernatorial race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis, because the winner will decide the ideological balance of the seven-member court for years.

The backstory: Scott’s decision last month to start the process to find replacements for the retiring justices had prompted a lawsuit, per the AP. The justices are slated to retire on Jan. 8, the same day Scott will leave office.

  • Scott, who's challenging Democratic Bill Nelson for his Senate seat, had said he has the authority to fill the vacancies and asked the Judicial Nominating Commission to start accepting applications with a Nov. 10 deadline.
  • The AP notes that the departing justices make up the bulk of the 4-3 liberal majority that has ruled against Scott and the GOP-controlled legislature.

What’s next: After the midterm contest, the court will hear oral arguments to decide whether the nominating commission can certify its nominees.

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