Trump Could Remake 11th Circuit With Pair of Nominees

The Elbert P. Tuttle U.S. Courthouse in Atlanta, home of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

WASHINGTON (CN) – In a move that will likely flip a federal appeals court that hears cases from Florida, Georgia and Alabama, President Donald Trump on Thursday announced plans to nominate two Florida Supreme Court justices to vacant seats on the 11th Circuit.

Both Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck were appointed to the Florida Supreme Court this year by Governor Ron DeSantis after serving on the state’s Third District Court of Appeal. Lagoa, who took the state Supreme Court bench a week earlier, swore Luck into office.

Both have ties to the conservative Federalist Society.

Lagoa has been a judge since 2006 and previously worked as a federal prosecutor in the state and in private practice. She was the first Hispanic woman appointed to the Florida Supreme Court.

In remarks at the press conference when DeSantis, a Trump ally, announced Lagoa’s nomination to the state Supreme Court, she struck a tone similar to previous Trump judicial nominees about the proper role of a judge.

“I am particularly mindful of the fact that under our constitutional system, it is for the Legislature, not the courts, to make the law,” Lagoa said, according to the Miami Herald. “It is the role of judges to apply, not to alter, the work of the people’s representatives.”

Before becoming a federal prosecutor, Lagoa worked on the defense team for Elian Gonzalez in the high-profile international custody fight, according to the Herald.

Luck is newer to the bench, having donned the robes in 2013, but he also spent time as a federal prosecutor in the same part of the state as Lagoa. A clerk for 11th Circuit Judge Ed Carnes, Luck also worked as an adjunct professor at Alabama State University.

Local conservative groups praised Luck’s nomination to the state high court, with the head of one Florida antiabortion group comparing him favorable to the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Robert Luck is a brilliant jurist,” Florida Family Policy Council president John Stemberger said in a statement when DeSantis tapped Luck for the seat in January. “To speak with, or listen to Judge Luck, is to realize you are in the presence of a truly unique and Scalia-like intellect.”

If either one of the nominees are confirmed by the U.S. Senate, it would give the 11th Circuit a majority of judges who were appointed by Republican presidents. When Trump took office, eight of the 12 judges on the court were appointed by Democrats, with one seat vacant.

With Republicans in control of the Senate, confirmation seems likely for both judges. The Judicial Crisis Network, an influential group that backs conservative judicial nominees, praised Trump’s choices in a statement Thursday.

“Justice Barbara Lagoa, the first Hispanic woman to sit on the Florida Supreme Court, and Justice Robert Luck are both highly qualified, exceptional people of character who will fairly apply the law and adhere to the Constitution,” Carrie Severino, the Judicial Crisis Network’s chief counsel, said. “We look forward to their swift confirmation.”

In addition to his picks for the 11th Circuit, Trump also announced three new nominees to federal courts in South Carolina, Arizona and California.

For a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Trump chose U.S. Attorney Sherri Lydon. The Senate unanimously confirmed Lydon to her current position in 2018 and she previously worked as a white-collar criminal defense attorney in private practice.

Trump chose another prosecutor for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, tapping Todd Robinson for the position. Robinson has worked as a prosecutor in California since 1998.

Finally, Trump chose Pima County Superior Court Judge Scott Rash for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Rash has served on the Arizona bench since 2010 and before that spent time at the Tucson firm Gabroy, Rollman & Bosse.

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