Bar’s Merit Campaign Challenged October 15, 2000 Regular News Bar’s Merit Campaign Challenged Two Florida Bar members have asked the Supreme Court to halt the Bar’s campaign encouraging voters to support the merit selection and retention referendum for trial judges that is on the November general election ballotUniversity of Florida law Professor Joe Little and Altamonte Springs attorney Harvey Alper filed a petition for injunctive relief with the court on September 29. The court asked the Bar for its formal response by October 6, after this News went to pressBar President Herman Russomanno said he thought the issue was groundless“Essentially, this complaint is the same as the one filed by these two individuals in 1995 when they previously challenged the Bar’s authority to advocate this issue,” he said. “Their 1995 petition was summarily dismissed by the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently denied review.”Little and Alper asked the court to prevent the Bar from any further activity supporting a “yes” vote on the referendum and to take reasonable steps to recover copies of a brochure it had published and distributed. Little and Alper charged the brochure made a number of false or unprovable claims, such as only the best qualified individuals will be selected as judges under merit selection and that more women and minorities have reached the bench through the appointive systemThey also argued that while the Bar has authority to take positions in the legislature on various bills, it does not have authority to become involved in ballot issues such as the merit referendumAs this News went to press, the Supreme Court directed the Bar to show cause why the injunction should not be granted. The Bar Board of Governors earlier this year, by more than a two-thirds vote, found the merit issue fell within the scope of permissible Bar activitiesThe board, at its September 15 meeting, again approved its position for the 2000-2002 legislative biennium. (Under Bar rules, all previous legislative positions were sunset as of June 30.) That action was officially noticed to members in the October 1 Bar NewsRussomanno noted that any Bar member who disagrees with the merit position can timely apply for a refund of his or her membership fees used for legislative activities, pursuant to Rule 2-9.3, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. That amount is estimated to be $9 to $10 and the deadline for member objections to this position is November 15, 2000.