DeSantis Judicial Appointments Set To Give Florida Supreme Court Conservative Majority
Governor Ron DeSantis announced lawyer Carlos Muñiz as his third appointment to the Florida Supreme Court at the Governor’s Mansion Tuesday. Muniz joins DeSantis’ other appointees, appellate judges Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck, who he announced over the last two weeks. Muniz, Lagoa and Luck are expected make the bench the most conservative it’s been in decades.
Law360 reporter Carolina Bolado, attorney and Republican analyst Molly Nardella, and communications specialist and Democratic analyst Jason Henry stop by Intersection to discuss the impact these new appointments could have on Florida’s judicial future.
With justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince having reached their mandatory retirement limits earlier this month, the Florida Supreme Court is now poised to lose its liberal majority.
For many, the court’s turn right was no surprise since the nine-member Judicial Nominating Commission, which recruits applicants for the state Supreme Court, is made up of lawyers and non-lawyers appointed by former Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
“We knew that the nominees that were going to come through this process were going to be fairly conservative, whether it was Governor Gillum or Governor DeSantis,” Bolado said.
Bolado said that according to the general consensus she’s heard, DeSantis has made “some very good decisions” in choosing his appointees.
Florida Democrats have expressed concern over the conservative appointees, however, particularly Carlos Muñiz. The 49-year-old, who recently acted as general counsel to U.S. Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos, has never served as a judge and spent quite a bit of his career in the political sector.
“Muñiz has been working in a political capacity, so I think, yes, that’s something that Democrats were not pleased with, but he’s not unqualified for the job,” Bolado said.
During his campaign, DeSantis ran on the platform of curbing so-called “judicial activism,” or judicial rulings suspected to be rooted in bias or opinion rather than the law.
“When we’re talking about judicial activism, we’re talking about stepping inside and being a ‘super-legislator’ and saying, ‘I disagree, I like this policy, I have this policy preference,’” Nardella said.
Democrats are also worried about what this new right-leaning Supreme Court will mean for issues like education, gerrymandering, state liability and abortion in Florida. Experts expect that the court with exhibit more judicial restraint with a conservative majority than previous benches have.
“What most people may not know is the Florida Supreme Court is a court of limited jurisdiction, so I think what you’re going to see with this new majority adding three new justices is a lot more cases in which the court says, ‘ We don’t have jurisdiction,’ which means the district court of appeals’ decision is going to stand,” Nardella said.
DeSantis has faced some backlash for not appointing a black justice to the Supreme Court. Although it was the Judicial Nominating Commission that was responsible for failing to bring forth a black nominee, some lawmakers have asked why DeSantis didn’t ask for additional nominees.
This is the first time in more than 40 years the court will not have a black justice.