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Florida Gov. Crist appoints justice, irks conservatives

From the AP:

ST. PETERSBURG - Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Cuban-born lawyer Jorge Labarga to the Florida Supreme Court on Friday.

Labarga, 56, a state circuit judge who Crist appointed to an appellate court position just last month, was named to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Harry Lee Anstead. It was Crist's third appointment to the state's high court since late August.

Here's Labarga's CV from the 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida's website.

Anticipating the appointment, Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center notes the current 5-4 liberal majority, writing at Bench Memos, "There is intense pressure on Crist from the media, left-wing activists and plaintiff's bar to preserve the liberal majority on the Court." Whelan cites a knowledgeable observer of the court who describes Labarga as "journeyman trial judge" who "has shown no evidence of having a well-formed conservative judicial philosophy."

The conservatives' candidate to come out of the judicial nominating commission was Frank Jimenez. The usual editorial and political calumnies were lodged against him -- a "[Jeb] Bush acolyte" -- drawing a response in the St. Petersburg Times by Raoul G. Cantero III, a former Supreme Court Justice.

The Times condemns his nomination despite Jimenez's sterling credentials: distinguished Yale Law School and Wharton Business School graduate, partner at a well-respected Miami law firm, deputy chief of staff and acting general counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush, chief of staff to then-HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, top litigation counsel at the U.S. Defense Department, and now general counsel of the Navy, one of six civilians of four-star rank who help the secretary of the Navy oversee the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

Whelan also praised Jimenez here.

The process for nominating Jimenez came under harsh criticism.

As the Times' blog, The Buzz, reports:

Jimenez's name was added to the roster of finalists in a controversial 5-4 vote by the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

Last month a group of lawyers complained that the JNC ''ran afoul of Florida law'' and appeared to bow to political pressure when it nominated Jimenez.

A group of 25 lawyers then countered with their own letter to the JNC's Supreme Court chairman Robert Hackleman supporting the commission's work.

More on Labarga from the Palm Beat Post,

which also notes that Crist appointed him to 4th District Court of Appeal in early December. And earlier stories on Jimenez:

Hispanic Fla. Supreme Court hopeful reconsidered Bradenton Herald
Lawyers question Fla. Supreme Court nomination Florida Today
Lawyer group blasts JNC's Jimenez pick Tampabay.com

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.