Crist Getting the Blunt Treatment, Will Palin Be Next?

Back in 2007, the Right was up in arms when former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt appointed Patricia Breckenridge to the State Supreme Court, saying he was “not a principled conservative” for “caving in” and abiding by the state’s process for filling such vacancies.

In Missouri, as in many other states, appointees for such positions are chosen by a nonpartisan commission which reviews all the applicants and then submits the names of three candidates to the governor. The process, commonly known as the “Missouri Plan,” began back in 1940 when the voters amended the state constitution to adopt this method and the process has since been adopted by many other states.

When Blunt received the list of candidates chosen by the commission to replace Judge Ronnie White, right-wing activist besieged him with calls to reject the choices as too liberal and demand a new list of candidates, but the Republican governor refused to do so and appointed Breckenridge and Blunt was savaged for having a complete lack of backbone.

Fast forward a few years and it looks like something similar is taking place in Florida, though this time there is a candidate the Right clearly favors among the candidates and so they are swinging into action to pressure Gov. Charlie Crist to appoint him:

In the next week or so, Gov. Charlie Crist faces one of the toughest political decisions of his tenure as governor: A Supreme Court appointment that pits conservatives in his own party against a minority community Crist is courting.

Religious conservatives and the National Rifle Association are backing 5th District Appeals Court Judge C. Alan Lawson, calling him the most qualified of the four candidates presented to Crist.

But some liberal groups and black leaders — including state NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze, whom Crist recently named as his minority affairs adviser — are ardently backing Seminole County Circuit Judge James E.C. Perry.

The Florida Family Policy Council, a conservative religious organization, sent members an e-mail headlined, “Gay activists and Planned Parenthood publicly oppose Judge Alan Lawson and support Judge James E. C. Perry.”

Meanwhile, the prominent gay rights group Equality Florida sounded its own warning to its members:

“The ultra right-wing American Family Association has begun to rally around Judge Alan Lawson … flooding the Governor’s office with calls, faxes, and e-mails. We cannot let the American Family Association decide the make-up of the Florida Supreme Court!”

John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council said the issue isn’t race or any stances Perry has taken on issues, but simply qualifications. Lawson, he noted, is the only nominee with appellate court experience.

It looks like Crist has quite a balancing act to try and pull off here … meanwhile a similar situation is also plaguing Sarah Palin as, like Gov. Blunt before her, she is facing the prospect of having to chose the next state Supreme Court justice from among of list of candidates who do not necessarily reflect her views:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has a month and a half to choose the next member of Alaska’s State Supreme Court.

The problem is the two choices she has to pick from are justices who don’t align with her conservative views.

Alaska’s judges are selected using the Missouri Plan, which combines election and appointment in choosing the judge. The Alaska Judicial Council selects the nominees from which the governor can then make an appointment. As one conservative Web site explained, “she’s boxed in tighter than Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.”

A total of six judges applied, but only two were elected by the Judicial Council, Eric Smith, considered very liberal, and Morgan Christen, who is viewed as more of a moderate. Christen and Smith were rated with scores of 4.3 and 4.5 out of a 5 point scale used to elect judges by the council.

The four other nominees scored between 3.7 and 2.4 and were not sent to Palin for consideration.

“The… lawyers control the process,” the Web site GOP 12 laments.

Dan Fagan of the Alaska Standard wrote that the time has come for Palin to spend the political capital she acquired as the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008.

“She must demand more names from the Judicial Council.” Fagan wrote. “Now that Palin is clearly trying to endear herself to the conservative base nationally, fighting for the justice she wants seems like a savvy play for her.”

This situation isn’t generating much coverage at the moment, but it’ll be interesting to watch and see how Palin handles it.  Will she demand a new list of candidates or will she go ahead and make the appointment from the candidates already provided by the Judicial Council? More importantly, if she does the latter, will the same groups who piled on Gov. Blunt for his cowardice do the same to Palin?