A Most Disorderly Court: Scandal and Reform in the Florida Judiciary (Florida History and Culture) by Martin Dyckman is yet another important time piece by the former St Petersburg Times Associate Editor. Dyckman’s knowledge of the 1970’s Florida political landscape is second to none among reporters and having covered the events closely, he was able to first pen Reubin O’D. Askew and the Golden Age of Florida Politics (Florida Government and Politics) which we have repeatedly stated on this site is an important book for any Florida pol to read and comprehend. This book is equally important.
Much of the impetus for the reforms Governor Askew undertook in the 1970’s was due to corruption. Political corruption, judicial corruption and ultimately the dysfunction of government that resulted created a very bad scene in this state. Dyckman’s book provides an important narrative of corruption and the consequences of mixing electoral politics and an independent judiciary. The web of lies, distortions and deception created by members of the Florida Supreme Court are untangled in this book as are the political battles that surrounded the court at the time. The larger context of Florida politics which was evolving rapidly in the 1970’s as the state transitioned from southern backwater to urban-dominated mega-state provides an important background to events. Florida became the envy of the nation and the Sun Belt’s leading light in the 1970’s but dealing with scandals like these and providing a codified framework for ensuring it never happened again were lasting legacies of the era.
Florida’s leaders of today and members of the legislature would do well to read and comprehend the lessons of this book much like Dyckman’s book on the Askew era. It is an indispensable and important read for those who at least rhetorically claim they want to do right by this state and lead us into the future effectively. With a new Governor and many new legislators leading our state forward, we need a greater appreciation of historical precedents and possible parallels. This book helps provide that.