Ron DeSantis, Florida’s newly elected governor was recently sworn into office. But as is the right of political passage, Rick Scott, the outgoing governor, made numerous political appointments during his last hours in office. Even though both governors are from the same political party, Governor DeSantis is reviewing Rick Scott’s appointments and the possibility exists that some of those appointments may be rescinded. If that happens, there is the potential that lawsuits will be filed over the issue which will permit our judiciary to resolve the dispute.
This type of dispute, involving high-ranking government appointments between outgoing and incoming officials, is as old as our nation’s constitution. Indeed, one of the most important cases in our country’s jurisprudence originates from a fact pattern almost identical to what is playing out in Florida today regarding these political appointments.
In Marbury v. Madison, the outgoing President, John Adams, made several high-level appointments as he was leaving office and also signed a law which greatly expanded the role of the Judiciary in an effort to stymie his political opponent and incoming President, Thomas Jefferson. But Jefferson’s Secretary of State, James Madison, refused to follow through on the 11th hour appointments made by Adams. One of those individuals appointed by Adams, William Marbury, sued Secretary of State Madison to compel him to follow through on the 11th hour appointment.
In the political tussle between Adams and Jefferson, the Supreme Court struck the law President Adams signed permitting him to appoint William Marbury. Marbury therefore never received his appointment since the Supreme Court concluded that Adams never had the capacity to appoint him. More importantly, Marbury v. Madison created the legal doctrine of judicial review, meaning that our third co-equal branch of government, the judiciary, has the capacity to strike down laws and actions by either the executive or legislative branch should those branches exceed the scope of their power.
Today, the concept of judicial review is often taken for granted given how ingrained it is in our jurisprudence. It is part of our judicial system of dispute resolution and a system that I proudly participate in on a daily basis. I go to court and help fight for my clients and their rights. Indeed, if you feel as if you were wronged by some action, much like William Marbury felt when he did not receive his political appointment from James Madison, then you should contact me today to discuss your legal rights. With that said, our court system may have looked vastly differently today had John Adams not decided to make several last second political appointments, which prompted Marbury to sue Madison, and provided the Supreme Court with the opportunity to render its decision in the case over 200 years ago.
Unlike Adams and Jefferson, the events playing out in Florida today are between two men from the same political party. But that doesn’t mean that the last second appointments won’t become the source of litigation at a later date. And if it does, Florida’s court system will be prepared to tackle the challenge with lawyers available to fight the good fight for them.