TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov.
Rick Scott has appointed Florida State University College of Law
alumnus C. Alan Lawson as the 86th justice to the Florida Supreme
Lawson, a conservative and former judge of Florida's 5th District
Court of Appeal, fills a seat of the seven-member court. The former
circuit judge replaces Justice James E.C. Perry, the fourth
African-American jurist to serve on Florida’s high court. Perry
retired because of a constitutional requirement that forces judges to
leave at the end of their term after they turn 70.
Herald reported that the retirement of Perry has given Scott his
first chance to alter the Florida Supreme Court. Prior to Perry’s
retirement, he formed part of the liberal majority of the court,
which has frequently seen 5-2 votes in several crucial cases, the
Sentinel reported. One such case involves statutes placing caps
on attorney’s fees in workers compensation disputes.
While Lawson’s appointment adds to the court’s conservative
minority, it’s not expected to do much in the conservative favor.
As the Miami
Herald reported in a separate account, the other conservative
members are Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston, while the
remaining justices — Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince,
and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga — are considered moderates.
Scott could still produce a conservative majority on the court.
Politics stated that Pariente, Quince and Lewis face mandatory
retirement in 2019, providing an opportunity for Scott to introduce
three more conservative high-court replacements before he leaves
office that January.
Lawson previously attempted to join the court in 2009, when he
applied to the court for two openings. While he was recommended, he
was passed over by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, who appointed Perry in
March 2009 because of the retirement of Justice Charles T. Wells, as
Florida Politics stated.
According to the Florida
State University News, the university is now the only one with
two law school graduates on the Florida Supreme Court. Lawson joins
fellow FSU alumnus Polston on the court.
Prior to Scott’s decision, there were also two other shortlisted
replacements for the outgoing Perry. These were Appellate Judge Wendy
Berger, also of the 5th District Court of Appeal, and Dan Gerber, an
Orlando civil-trial defense lawyer, according to Florida
Lawson received a Bachelor of Science from Clemson University in
1983 and a Juris Doctor from FSU in 1987. Upon graduating from the
Florida State University College of Law, Lawson worked in the private
sector before becoming the assistant county attorney for the Orange
County Attorney’s Office in 1997.
In 2002, he was appointed to a circuit judgeship in the 9th
Judicial Circuit until 2005, when he was appointed to a district
judgeship in the 5th District Court of Appeal by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.
In 2015, he was elected chief judge of the 5th District Court of