Florida Supreme Court Nominees Sent to Governor-Elect DeSantis

(CN) – Florida’s incoming governor, Ron DeSantis, received a shortlist of nominees to replace three state Supreme Court justices on Tuesday, which could reshape the ideological bent of the state’s highest court.

The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission submitted 11 names, mostly circuit court and appellate court judges, to replace the three retiring justices: Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince.

The three justices, who are leaving due to mandatory retirement, will step down on Jan. 8 – the same day DeSantis, a Republican, will be sworn in as governor.

The Florida Constitution mandates retirement at 70, although a ballot amendment passed on Election Day raises the age to 75. The change does not go into effect until July 2019 and so does not apply to the current retiring justices.

In a statement, DeSantis praised the nominees as “talented and highly qualified individuals.” He also said Scott’s opinions will play into his decisions.

The nine-member nominating commission, all appointed by current Gov. Rick Scott, sifted through 58 applications over the last two months to whittle down the list to 11 individuals:

Jonathan D. Gerber, who serves as chief judge of the 4th District Court of Appeal.

Jeffrey T. Kuntz, a judge on the 4th District Court of Appeal.

Jamie Rutland Grosshans, a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal.

Barbara Lagoa, a judge on the 3rd District court of Appeal.

Robert J. Luck, a judge serving on the 3rd District Court of Appeal.

Samuel J. Salario Jr., who serves as judge on the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

Timothy D. Osterhaus, a judge on the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Anuraag Singhal, a circuit court judge in Broward County.

Bruce Kyle, a circuit court judge in Lee County, who also represented Ft. Myers as a Republican state house representative for four terms until 2006.

John Daniel Couriel, an attorney with the Miami-based law firm Kobre & Kim.

Carlos Munez, general counsel for the U.S. Department of Education, was also chief of staff to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

All of the judges were appointed by Republican governors and six of them by Scott himself. Nine of the nominees are members of the conservative Federalist Society, according to their applications.

One seat must go to a nominee from South Florida while the other two individuals can come from anywhere in the state.

The three new justices will join Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson. They are considered the conservative wing of the court. Justice Jorge Labarga often acts as a swing vote.

The three retiring justices – Pariente, Lewis and Quince – were considered more liberal. They frequently struck down gerrymandering and abortion restrictions passed by Scott and the majority Republican legislature.

The appointment process of the new justices was mired in controversy earlier this year when Scott declared he would choose the new justices before leaving office. Scott’s intentions provoked a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters and liberal group Common Cause. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled the incoming governor has “sole authority” to appoint the justices.

The groups wanted the Supreme Court to invalidate the nominating process, but the justices declined.

Next year, the Florida Supreme Court is set to rule on cases involving the controversial “stand your ground” law, gun rights and Miami Beach’s introduction of a citywide minimum wage.

“I look forward to his counsel as I work to evaluate each nominee to ensure that the next three justices appointed to the Florida Supreme Court will respect our Constitution and the rule of law and serve our state with distinction,” he said.

DeSantis and his Democratic opponent in the election, Andrew Gillum, frequently talked about the importance of who picked the next three justices.

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