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Nine finalists for 1st District Court of Appeal sent to Ron DeSantis

“The Commission thanks all 26 applicants for their commitment to public service.”

The names of nine finalists, including a former deputy solicitor general and the current Florida House general counsel, will be sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis to fill two vacancies on the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal (DCA) in Tallahassee.

Richard Doran, who chairs the 1st DCA’s Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC), released the list Friday.

“The Commission thanks all 26 applicants for their commitment to public service, and also thanks the many individuals who called or wrote to us concerning the applicants’ qualifications for the position of appellate court judge,” he said in a statement.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis will make the 1st DCA appointments, continuing the conservative remaking of the state’s courts begun in earnest by GOP former Gov. (and now U.S. Sen.) Rick Scott.

The JNC interviewed all the applicants this Thursday and Friday. The finalists in alphabetical order are:

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— Circuit Judge James “Scott” Duncan of the 1st Circuit Court, Santa Rosa County. 

Gilbert Feltel Jr., assistant general counsel for the city of Jacksonville.

George Levesque, a GrayRobinson shareholder in Tallahassee and a former general counsel for the Florida Senate and House, and special counsel to the House during gaming compact negotiations with the Seminole Tribe.

Circuit Judge Robert Long of Tallahassee, who shares similar experience and background with DeSantis. 

Rachel Nordby, a partner in the Shutts & Bowen law firm and former deputy solicitor general under Attorney General Pam Bondi. (She is married to Daniel Nordby, another Shutts partner who was general counsel to Gov. Scott.) 

Gary Perko, a Hopping Green & Sams attorney in Tallahassee, specializing in “environmental law, utilities regulation and public contracting.”

Circuit Judge Eric Roberson of the 4th Judicial Circuit, Jacksonville. 

Cristine Russell, a board-certified appellate lawyer and shareholder in the Rogers Tower law firm in Jacksonville.

Adam Tanenbaum, general counsel for the Florida House of Representatives. 

The 1st DCA is considered a high-profile assignment because, being based in the capital, the court hears appeals from civil cases challenging actions taken by the Governor and state government.

In all, the 1st District hears appeals from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th and 14th Judicial Circuits in north Florida, encompassing 32 counties.

It’s also another chance for DeSantis to put his mark on the judiciary. For example, he added three new conservative justices to the state’s seven-member Supreme Court. They replaced longtime and liberal-leaning justices who retired this January — the same day he took office.

The 1st DCA vacancies were caused by the ascension of former judges T. Kent Wetherell II and Allen Winsor to the federal bench in north Florida. They were nominated by President Donald Trump.

A request for comment to the Governor’s Office on when he would make his decisions was sent Friday evening.

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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