Politics & Government

Gov. Rick Scott cancels local judge election after Scott Brownell announces retirement

Scott Brownell
Scott Brownell

BRADENTON -- In the wake of Circuit Judge Scott Brownell announcing he will retire from the bench in December, days shy of his term ending, Elizabeth M. Boyle is fighting the state's decision to remove her as a candidate for the seat.

Gov. Rick Scott's office said in a letter dated Wednesday that the seat will be filled by appointment and an election will no longer be held.

Boyle, a private attorney and the wife of former Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski, filed April 20 to run against Brownell in the Nov. 8 election.

Brownell, who has sat on the 12th Circuit Court bench since 1987, announced his resignation from the bench in a letter to Scott dated April 21. He stated he would resign effective Dec. 28, although his term does not expire until Jan. 2, causing the need for an appointment.

"It is my intention to resign from the office prior to the commencement of the statutory qualifying period which begins May 2 to create a vacancy in the seat between Dec. 28 and Jan. 2; which will permit you to fill the vacancy by appointment," Brownell wrote. "I know you will appoint someone who is

well qualified, who will respect the dignity of the office and work tirelessly to serve the people of this circuit and the state of Florida."

In a letter dated Tuesday, Scott accepted Brownell's resignation, thanking him for his service.

A spokesman for the courthouse said that Brownell was declining to comment to the media regarding his decision.

Boyle, who is out of the country with her husband, immediately responded in an email and challenged the decision.

"I do not believe that you have the legal authority to determine, effect and/or publish for the State of Florida or the State of Florida Department of State, the cancellation of a constitutionally mandated election for a state circuit court judge position," Boyle wrote. "Nor is there any lawful authority for you to remove my name as an active candidate for this office and I hereby demand that your office restore my candidacy to active status immediately."

Boyle went on to add that the approximate 505,000 registered voters in 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida, made up of DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties, were given the right by Florida to have a say in the selection of their judges.

"The Governor's power to appoint judges to fill vacancies on the bench is not intended to supplant the democratic elective process," Boyle wrote. "The appointment power was created to be used in situations where there would be a large gap in service, akin to an emergency, to prevent a large interruption in the provision of judicial services to the public, until the next available election."

Boyle also claims in her email that Brownell stated in open court Friday that he may still re-enter the race. The decision to cancel the election, Boyle said, would be setting a precedent that would end the election of judges statewide.

Her husband agreed.

"If that succeeds, the election process of judge is over. This is a scam on the people," Radzilowski said. "It's a travesty of justice."

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.