Governor Charlie Crist and Florida Supreme Court Justice James E. C. Perry, 2009

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Governor Charlie Crist and Florida Supreme Court Justice James E. C. Perry, 2009

Governor Charlie Crist and Florida Supreme Court Justice James E. C. Perry, 2009

by:
jtracy
February 15, 2017

Florida Supreme Court Justice James E. C. Perry receiving his appointment as the 85th Justice to the Florida Supreme Court by Governor Charlie Crist, March 11, 2009.

Justice James E. C. Perry served as the first African-American judge appointed to the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit. Justice Perry served as Chief Judge of the Circuit Court beginning in July 2003.

In March 2009, Justice James E. C. Perry became the fourth African-American to serve as Florida Supreme Court Justice. Justice Perry retired from the Florida Supreme Court on December 30, 2016.

Listen as Florida Supreme Court Justice James E. C. Perry discusses the importance of an independent judiciary in this excerpt from an oral history interview with Justice Perry at the Orlando Public Library on December 19, 2017.

LISTEN Part VI (19:47)

I would like the public to be aware of our judicial system. We have three branches of government. They're suppose to be separate and independent. It's a system of checks and balances. Some people believe the Supreme Court should be independent to through the executive or legislative branch, but that's not how the system was set up. Federally nor statewide. We're not a political office. Although they say that we're not elected that's not true.

Federal judges aren't elected and justices aren't elected, but the State Supreme Court Justices are elected. We stand for merit retention every six years. And, if we don't get the votes we're out. So that's a misnomer. And they like to say that we're making rulings, unelected people making rulings, but that's not true. But we are elected and we're making rulings based upon the constitution. And we understand the separation of powers and authority. And the Supreme Court is the weakest branch of the government. We don't have the shield or the sword. We don't have the money. We don't allocate what money we get. It's all allocated by the legislature. We don't have a national guard or police force. So the public has to depend on our integrity and us doing the right thing and to believe that the sense of fairness come from ourselves or we become a nullity.

So it's very important that people understand that and the judiciary has to be independent. It doesn't mean we're independent to make decisions we want to make. It's independent to make sure that decision we make is not influenced by money or politics or anything else. That's the independence that the people need to understand. And I guess the most current thing is most people couldn't name one Supreme Court Justice in the state of Florida.

At the election before the last, I'm not sure about what the statistics were in the last election, but in 2012 a half a million people who voted for the top of the ticket, that is the governor, did not vote for Supreme Court Justices. Did not vote at all. And if you asked people who the Supreme Court Justices are they couldn't name one. Nor do they understand our role. That's why you need civic education. And you know, our system requires participation of the public. It's not where you just sit back and watch like you watch a football game. Because we the people mean all of us. And I would encourage people to participate. Not just vote, but to run for public office. And start at the lowest level and do your part. If everybody does a little then we can accomplish a lot. But if you sit back and wait for the special interest to take care of you, they will not take care of you. You have to take care of yourself.

Photo courtesy of Florida Supreme Court Justice James E. C. Perry.

 

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