Jeb Bush

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.


• Peggy A. Quince, 12/8/98 (appointed jointly with Gov. Lawton Chiles (D))
• Raoul Cantero, III, 7/10/2002
• Kenneth B. Bell, 12/30/2003


  • Believes Justice Scalia's vacancy on the Supreme Court should be filled before the election: No1
  • Interview on judicial nominations (6/26/2015):
    [JEB BUSH]: And it’s important, I think, to think about going forward what kind of judges we need particularly on the highest court in the land. And I’ve given that some thought, because I was governor of Florida. And when I was governor, we tried to find people with a proven record of judicial restraint, and people that were committed to enforcing the Constitutional limits on government authority. In essence, what I’m saying is I think we need to have people that have not just theoretically, but have had a proven record of not legislating from the bench. And these are talented, smart people, but these two decisions are really disappointing.
    [HUGH HEWITT]: On Election Day, Governor, Justice Ginsberg will be 83, Justice Scalia, 80, Kennedy, 80, Breyer, 78, so there’ll be a lot, probably, in front of the next president. Your father appointed Justices Thomas and Souter, your brother, the Chief Justice and Alito. All justices disappoint their presidents sometime, but Souter was like a 90% swing and a miss. How do you avoid Souters?
    [BUSH]: I think the way you do it is that you focus on people that are qualified to be Supreme Court justices that have a proven record of judicial restraint. And so I think you have to be all in to fight for people that have a record, because today in America, the minute you have a record, you’re subject to attack. But that’s the best way to prove that someone has a consistency in their view of, in terms of judicial philosophy.2
  • On judicial selection criteria (3/29/2002): “Diversity has been, and will continue to be, among my top priorities in judicial appointments. The diversity of our judicial appointments is a credit to the high quality of the many women and minorities who have achieved excellence in the legal profession.”3
  • On judging (12/30/2002):“Judges have a difficult job. They must balance judicial independence with a respect for the primacy of the Legislature and the executive branch as policymakers. They must guard our individual rights, but not at the expense of our collective right to self-government. And perhaps their greatest challenge is to resist the urge to substitute their own values and policy preferences for those embodied in the law.”4
  • On judicial activism: “Far too often, our courts have . . . substituted their own personal views for the laws enacted by the people and their representatives. Increasingly, courts have seized control over policy decisions that are not theirs to make. I'd prefer that judges distinguish themselves by their adherence to the foundational principle of the separation of powers. . . . As courts grow ever more powerful, there is an even greater need for judges who are humble . . . in the sense that they know courts are not mini-Legislatures or Governors. And in the sense of understanding that a court betrays its duty when it imposes its personal will on the rest of us. . . . Courts exist to protect freedom. This includes the individual rights that each of us holds dear. But freedom also means the shared right of the people to govern themselves through their elected representatives in the Legislature and the Executive Branch. A healthy respect for the people’s right of self-government-and a strong dose of humility-are absolute prerequisites for a good judge.”5
  • On the independence of the judiciary: “People tell me all the time that the judiciary’s independence is being threatened. . . . To me, I think the greatest threat to the independence of the judiciary is when judges overstep their bounds. That creates the greatest danger, perhaps, than anything else. In order to protect the separation of powers, make sure judges apply the law rather than use their position to legislate.”6
  • On judicial nominations and Chief Justice John Roberts, GOP Debate (9/16/2015): “We need to make sure that we have justices that, with a proven experienced record of respect for upholding the constitution. That is what we need. We can’t have — the history in recent past is appoint people that have no experience so that you can’t get attacked. And, that makes it harder for people to have confidence that they won’t veer off . . . John Roberts has made some really good decisions, for sure, but he did not have a proven, extensive record that would have made the clarity the important thing, and that’s what we need to do. And, I’m willing to fight for those nominees to make sure that they get passed. You can’t do it the politically expedient way anymore. This is the culture in Washington. You have to fight hard for these appointments. This is perhaps the most important thing that the next president will do. . . . But, the simple fact is that going forward, what we need to do is to have someone that has a long standing set of rulings that consistently makes it clear that he is a focused, exclusively on upholding the Constitution of the United States so they won’t try to use the bench as a means to which legislate. . . . And, that’s what we should do, and I hope I’ll be working members of the United States Senate to fight hard for the passage of people that have that kind of qualification.”7


Obergefell v. Hodges (same-sex marriage):

“[D]isappointed . . . I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision.”8

King v. Burwell (Obamacare subsidies):

“[D]isappointed”;9 “I am disappointed by today’s Supreme Court ruling in the King v. Burwell case. But this decision is not the end of the fight against Obamacare.”10

Kelo v. City of New London (eminent domain):

Signed bill narrowing powers of eminent domain in response to Kelo decision.11
“The right to own property is fundamental to freedom. Property ownership is the ultimate reward for hard work and symbolizes personal responsibility and independence.”12

Citizens United v. FEC (free speech):

“The ideal thing--situation--would be to overturn the Supreme Court ruling that allows for effectively unregulated money independent and regulated money for the campaign. I would turn that on its head if I could. The key is just to have total transparency about the amounts of money and who gives it and have it with 48-hour turnaround. It’s going to require an amendment to the Constitution.”13