DeSantis set to announce appointment of second Supreme Court justice

By John Breslin | Jan 14, 2019


TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Ron DeSantis is wasting little time in filling vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court, with a second judge from the south of the state expected to be appointed Monday.

Judge Robert Luck, 39, of the Third District Court of Appeals in Miami, will join colleague, Barbara Lagoa, previously chief judge on the same court, and who was appointed last week to the state's highest court, according to multiple reports.

DeSantis's office issued a statement Sunday night that he will "make a major announcement” at 10 a.m. in Miami. Florida Politics, reporting confirmation from three sources, stated that this announcement will be Luck's appointment.

Both Lagoa and Luck are closely linked to the Federalist Society, an influential conservative organization of legal professionals and students. Nine of the 11 on the short list described themselves as members of the society.

The three retiring justices, Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, are all regarded as being liberal, progressive-leaning.

The Supreme Court is likely to rule on cases involving the controversial the state's “stand your ground” law, gun rights and the introduction of a citywide minimum wage by Miami Beach. It also may review assignment of benefits, particularly with regard to water damage.

In his application to the Judicial Nominating Commission, the majority of which were appointed by former Gov. Rick Scott, Luck wrote, "I understand how the judiciary — what Hamilton called our least dangerous branch — fits into our system of government."

He added, "Having worked in each of the three branches, I understand the modest role of the judge in reviewing the laws enacted by the legislature, the actions taken by the executive, and the findings of the lower courts.

"I have conducted myself that way for the last five years, and I will continue to do so as long as I am permitted to serve.”

Luck was appointed to the Third District Court of Appeal by Scott in 2017. He served on the 11th Circuit Court for three and a half years until March 2017, and presided over the criminal, civil, and appellate divisions. While a trial judge, Luck presided over 70 jury trials, 

Prior to his appointment to the bench, Luck was an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He was involved with appeals, major and economic crimes during his tenure as a federal prosecutor. He ended his career in the office as deputy chief of major crimes.

Last week, DeSantis named Lagoa, 52, to the Supreme Court bench. He made the announcement in front of Miami's Freedom Tower, one of the most important buildings for Cuban immigrants in the city. Lagoa is the first Cuban-American, or Hispanic, woman to serve on the court.

"Judge Lagoa’s credentials are impeccable,” DeSantis said, according to a report in the Miami Herald. It was his first official move as governor

Lagoa, born in Miami in 1967, was educated first at Florida International University, where she majored in English. She gained her law degree from Columbia University in 1992, where she served as an associate editor of the Columbia Law Review.

Prior to joining the bench, Lagoa practiced in both the civil and criminal arenas, with her civil work centered on complex commercial litigation, including employment discrimination, business torts, securities litigation, construction litigation and insurance coverage disputes. 

She joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in 2003, and worked in the civil, major crimes and appellate sections. She tried numerous cases, including drug conspiracies.

According to her biography, she serves on the board of directors for the YWCA of Greater Miami and Dade County, the Film Society of Miami, Kristi House, and the FIU Alumni Association. She was also formerly a member of the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission. 

A mother of three, Lagoa was first appointed to bench by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003.

The other nominees in the running for the third seat on the court are Jonathan D. Gerber, chief judge of the 4th District Court of Appeal, Jeffrey T. Kuntz, a judge on the same court, Jamie Rutland Grosshans of the 5th District Court of Appeal, Timothy D. Osterhaus of the 1st District Court of Appeal, Anuraag Singhal, a circuit court judge in Broward Count, Bruce Kyle, a circuit court judge in Lee County, John Daniel Couriel, a Miami attorney, Carlos Munez, general counsel for the U.S. Department of Education and former chief of staff to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Samuel J. Salario Jr., a judge on the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

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