As governor of Florida, Jeb Bush was responsible for appointing judges and for reforming the state’s judicial selection method to reduce the influence of the state bar association in the selection of judges. Florida’s appellate and supreme court judges are selected under the terms of the state’s “Missouri Plan,” which means the governor must pick appointees from a list of nominees submitted by a nominating commission. When Jeb Bush became governor of Florida, the state’s judicial nominating commission was disproportionately controlled by the state bar association, leading Governor Bush and local conservatives to pursue judicial selection reforms designed to diminish what they perceived as capture of the state courts by liberal special interests. In 2001, Governor Bush and the Florida legislature formally did that, changing the composition of the nominating commission so that all of the commissioners are now appointed by the governor.
During his governorship, two vacancies occurred on the Florida Supreme Court. Governor Bush filled them by appointing Raoul Cantero and Kenneth Bell, both of whom are widely regarded as conservative in their judicial philosophies. Governor Bush also played a role in the unique appointment of Justice Peggy Quince who, unlike Justices Cantero and Bell, is regarded as a liberal. She was jointly appointed to the bench because her predecessor’s vacancy took effect the day power transitioned from Democratic Governor Buddy McKay to Governor Bush. In his public comments on judicial philosophy and the role of judges, Governor Bush has embraced the animating principles of the conservative legal movement and has criticized recent Supreme Court opinions he considers wrongly decided.