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Ron DeSantis to appoint Robert Luck to Supreme Court

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday will appoint Robert J. Luck, a judge on the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami, to the Florida Supreme Court.

The Governor’s Office on Sunday night said DeSantis will “make a major announcement” at 10 a.m. in Miami. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez also is slated to attend.

Luck

Three sources later confirmed to Florida Politics that DeSantis will appoint Luck, one of only two nominees with an immediate Miami connection.

Moreover, Luck and his wife are listed as donors to Scheck Hillel Community School, where Monday’s announcement is taking place.

Monday’s selection by DeSantis — a Ponte Vedra Beach Republican — will further cement the conservative lean of the state’s highest court.

DeSantis last week appointed Barbara Lagoa, chief judge of the 3rd District Court of Appeal, to replace retired Justice R. Fred Lewis. Lagoa’s seat is reserved for a resident of the state’s Third Appellate District for Miami-Dade County.

Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince had been regarded as the court’s liberal-leaning wing; Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston, Alan Lawson and now Lagoa are conservative.

Justice Jorge Labarga often is a swing vote, though he has recently been voting with the conservative bloc. Lewis, Pariente and Quince all faced mandatory age-related retirement this month, on the same day DeSantis was sworn in. The Pariente and Quince seats are at-large.

“I understand how the judiciary — what Hamilton called our least dangerous branch — fits into our system of government,” Luck wrote in his application to the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC).

“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,” he added. “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.”

The 39-year-old South Miami native’s rise to the state’s highest court was quick: He graduated from the University of Florida’s law school in the top ten percent of his class in 2004 and was admitted to practice law here in 2006, according to his application.

After graduation, Luck clerked for Chief Judge Ed Carnes of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, worked at the Greenberg Traurig law firm in Miami, and was an assistant federal prosecutor in Miami 2008-13.

In 2013, then-Gov. Rick Scott appointed him a circuit judge in Miami-Dade County’s 11th Judicial Circuit. He was retained by election in 2016, then was appointed by Scott to the 3rd District Court of Appeal in 2017.

Asked to describe “significant cases” he presided over as a judge for his application, Luck mentioned among others a 2015 prosecution of a man charged with “battering a person over the age of 65.”

During a hearing, the defendant “rushed up from his seat and jumped at me. He and I tumbled down the steps of the bench, and as I was laying on the floor, (he) was on top of me, punching my head.

“My bailiff eventually ripped (him) off of me. I got up, dusted off my robe, fixed my chair, which had been knocked down, took my place on the bench, and dictated what had happened into the record. I then entered an order recusing myself from the case.

“Despite the bleeding and bruising, I declined medical attention and refused to file a worker’s compensation claim. Hearing about the incident in Tallahassee, then-Chief Justice Jorge Labarga wrote me this note: ‘I want to commend you for the professionalism you displayed in handling what must have been a very disturbing situation. Your coolness and understanding was exemplary.’ ”

DeSantis is not precluded from picking Luck for an at-large seat. When the JNC certified its list of nominees, it did so in one slate, instead of separate slates for the Miami-Dade seat and for the at-large seats.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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