Fla. High Court Approves New Rule Prohibiting Judges from Lobbying Lawmakers

The Florida Supreme Court has adopted a new rule that prohibits individual judges from lobbying lawmakers without prior approval by the court and the various administrative committees that oversee the budget.

Another new rule imposes an eight-year term limit on all chief judges and requires them to be selected on the basis of their managerial, administrative and leadership skills, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The court adopted the new rules partly in response to public criticism of a new $50 million courthouse for the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee that has been dubbed a “Taj Mahal.”

But the new rules aren’t sitting well with some judges.

The state’s circuit court judges have formally asked the supreme court to rescind the rules and engage in a public discussion before taking any action that would constrain a judge’s right to speak out in public. They say a restriction on speaking to legislators could violate a judge’s free speech rights and have a chilling effect on a judge’s ability to respond to questions from lawmakers.

Judges at the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach have also filed a formal objection to the rule establishing term limits on chief judges.

The new rules also include a provision that allows the supreme court to remove a district court chief judge, a change that appears to stem from attempts to force former Judge Paul M. Hawkes to resign as chief judge of the 1st District after his lobbying efforts on behalf of the new courthouse were disclosed by the media.

The supreme court has not responded to the judges’ objections, and spokesman Craig Waters said the court has not scheduled a hearing on the new rules.

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