A band of former Florida Supreme Court justices and nationally prominent legal experts joined Thursday to oppose bills they say threaten to stifle the independence of the third branch of government.

It was a final push to fight court overhaul proposals hours before they reached the House floor with the backing of Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. The ideas, which have strong support from conservative Republicans and the Tea Party, include splitting the state’s high court into civil and criminal divisions and handing the power to appoint appellate judges solely to the governor.

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