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Ron DeSantis delays decisions on Supreme Court picks

Since November, Supreme Court of Florida has had five Justices instead of seven.

It will be a while yet before Florida has a full Supreme Court again, because of the new coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday he is delaying choices to fill the openings created last fall when President Donald Trump picked Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck to fill two openings on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Given the urgency of the coronavirus crisis, DeSantis said he has not had time to read all of the candidates’ opinions or other writings to prepare to make a proper decision.

He said he’s pushing a decision back to at least May 1.

Normally, DeSantis would have until next Monday to name the new justices, under rules that required the appointments within 60 days of when the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission named nine finalists for the benches on Jan. 23.

“I will most likely delay, under the State of Emergency, that deadline, probably push it back to May 1,” DeSantis said.

The delay will not affect the list of nominees now in DeSantis hands, a slate he generally praised Thursday.

“I think there are some great candidates. I’m not saying you could really even go wrong. But I don’t think my time is very well spent right now — the court is functioning fine — for me to be taking my eye off the ball of the stuff that everyone is so concerned about, to be reading some of these opinions,” the Governor continued. “So I think that will happen in due time, and then we’ll be able to make those selections.”

Currently, the state’s 3rd Appellate District does not have a representative on the Supreme Court. Florida’s five appellate districts must be represented on the court, meaning at least one of the two nominees must come from that region.

Of the nine finalists, three are from the 3rd Appellate District.

Two of those three — John Couriel and Eliot Pedrosa — currently work as attorneys. Couriel works at the Kobre & Kim law firm. Pedrosa is a Miami attorney who was named by President Donald Trump to serve as the United States Alternate Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank.

The third nominee from that region is Judge Norma Lindsey of the 3rd District Court of Appeals.

The remaining six nominees are all judges. Five of those individuals serve on appellate courts.

Judge Timothy Osterhaus and Judge Lori Rowe both serve on the 1st District Court of Appeal. Judge Jonathan Gerber is from the 4th District, while Judge Jamie Grosshans and Judge Meredith Sasso are from the 5th District.

The final nominee — Judge Renatha Francis — is the only African American nominee of the group. She serves on the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County.

The list includes six state appellate judges, five women and one black candidate.

The court’s diversity has become a closely watched issue, as it has not had a woman justice since Lagoa joined the Atlanta-based federal appeals court and has not had a black member since former Justice Peggy Quince retired more than a year ago.

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Content from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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