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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Scott wins victory over restoration of electoral rights to criminals

Por Damian

A federal appeals court gave Governor Rick Scott a political victory last Wednesday by blocking a lower court ruling that repealed the system Florida uses to restore voting rights to criminals. According to El Nuevo Herald, a panel of three judges from the Federal Court of Appeals in Atlanta blocked a March 27 decision by federal district judge Mark Walker, who declared the system "grossly flawed" and constitutionally arbitrary.

"The governor has a broad discretion to grant or deny clemency, even when the applicable regime does not have standards", said the ruling by Judge Stanley Marcus, a former federal judge in Miami, by prohibiting the application of Judge Walker's decision.

In its order, the Atlanta Court of Appeals repeatedly cites the 1969 Supreme Court decision in the Beacham versus Braterman case. An event from Florida that was the precedent for a "no standards" leniency system.

The Atlanta court issued the ruling hours before Judge Walker's order came into force. That order instructed Scott and three cabinet members to adopt "specific standards and neutral criteria" to decide how to restore electoral rights to the approximately 1.5 million convicted criminals living in Florida.

Walker had said that the process of restoration of electoral rights in Florida is unconstitutional because it gives "unlimited discretion" to the governor, who has the power to grant or deny electoral rights for any reason. "We are pleased that the 11th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals has blocked the lower court's decision", Scott's office said. "Judges must interpret the law, not establish it."

Scott, who is a Republican, has run for the federal Senate. Walker was appointed to the federal judiciary by President Barack Obama. Walker was a partner with Steve Andrews, a Tallahassee lawyer specializing in personal finance who sued Scott in a case in which the governor agreed to pay 700,000 dollars in fees to end a legal battle over public records.

Minutes after the Atlanta court issued its ruling, Scott canceled an emergency meeting of the cabinet he had convened to approve temporary rules to fulfill Walker's order.

Walker ruled on March 27 that the Floridian system that requires convicted criminals to wait five years to ask Scott and three cabinet members to restitution of their electoral rights has "serious flaws" because it is very conservative. The judge ordered the implementation of a new system by April 26, a date that the Atlanta court considered "very difficult to comply."

These four officers make up a statewide leniency board that meets four times a year to hear requests from convicted criminals to restore specific rights, including voting.