- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Newly installed Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Monday directed a torrent of criticism at the state’s Supreme Court, going so far as to declare the seven justices an “enemy” of free markets and a good business climate.

Corcoran, an attorney who has risen to one of the most powerful posts in state government, has been critical of the high court in the past, but he struck a more defiant and strident tone when speaking before a business organization that lobbies in Tallahassee.

“The enemy is not the House of Representatives, the enemy is not the state Senate, the enemy is not a governor,” Corcoran said during the annual conference of the Associated Industries of Florida. “The enemy are basically seven individuals who meet in private in black robes.”

Corcoran insisted that the high court - and, particularly, three of the court’s most experienced justices - flouted the separation of powers and “over and over again” used rulings to rewrite Florida law. He said that he tried unsuccessfully in 2012 to raise money in an effort to block those justices from earning new six-year terms on the court.

Among the decisions Corcoran cited was one that required state legislators to testify in a court challenge to congressional and legislative maps that ultimately resulted in new districts being drawn by the courts.

He also cited decisions earlier this year that struck down portions of the law that deals with worker’s compensation insurance for injured workers. Insurance rates are coming up in the wake of that ruling, and now business groups are asking legislators to change the law.

He also cited a decision that struck down a private school voucher law pushed by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

The remarks by Corcoran, once a top aide to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio when he was in the Legislature, could be seen as a prelude in his push to make sweeping changes to Florida’s judicial branch. One of the biggest changes Corcoran wants is a mandatory 12-year term limit for all judges. That would require a constitutional amendment that must be approved by voters.

Corcoran’s swing at the Florida Supreme Court came on the same day that he met privately with Chief Justice Jorge Labarga. He said Labarga explained to him why he opposes Corcoran’s push for judicial term limits.

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