Ron DeSantis appoints five ‘rule of law’ judges in South Florida

DeSantis
The appointments span Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed five judges in South Florida, including one appointee who will return to a role she held before former President Donald Trump selected her for a U.S. Attorney job and two whose predecessors resigned in disgrace.

DeSantis announced 20 judicial appointments Friday, a quarter of which concerned courts in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties. The announcement described all those he chose as “rule of law” judges.

Atop the list of South Florida judicial appointees was Adriana Fajardo Orshan, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Trump appointed her to the position in June 2018. When the Senate confirmed her to the position two months later, it marked the first time a woman had completed the formal congressional process for the federal position.

She was sworn in less than a month later and has since presided over more than 200 federal prosecutors in a district spanning nine counties.

Fajardo Orshan, who was born in Hialeah and received her law degree from Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center, will now return to the bench where she served for six years before her 2018 appointment: the 11th Judicial Circuit Court, which covers Miami-Dade County.

She will fill a vacancy created by the March 24 resignation of Judge Rosa Figarola, who had served on the court since late 2000.

The DeSantis announcement did not specify the kind of cases Fajardo Orshan would hear. During her first stint, she primarily ruled over family cases.

The 11th Judicial Circuit Court also gained Judge Diana Vizcaino, who will make the move after more than six years of service on the Miami-Dade County Court, most recently in its Domestic Violence Division.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott appointed Vizcaino to the Miami-Dade Court in 2015 while he was Governor. She was elected without opposition to a six-year term the following year and, as such, will vacate her seat early to accept DeSantis’ appointment.

A graduate of St. Thomas University, where she earned her law degree, Vizcaino became a prosecutor right out of college and served as an Assistant City Attorney in Miami from 2008 to 2015.

She will fill a vacancy created by the May resignation of Judge Martin Zilber, which came amid an inquiry by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission of improper conduct.

The Miami-Dade County Court will gain Judge Laura González, whose legal career since 2011 has included two five-year stints with international law firms Kobre & Kim and Holland & Knight.

Her bio with Kobre & Kim, where she currently works, says González specializes in providing counsel to institutions and individuals on cross-border, white-collar criminal defense and internal investigations, regulatory enforcement matters and complex civil disputes.

She was a member of Holland & Knight’s regulatory and government affairs group, and she helped the firm establish its Latin America internal investigations practice.

González’s experience also includes a roughly year and a half run as a clerk with Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal, a job she took shortly after graduating from Columbia Law School in 2009.

She replaces Judge Miguel Mirabal, whose April 16 resignation similarly came after allegations of misconduct before he became a judge. He had held the seat for just three months.

Joining the Palm Beach County Court is April Bristow, who since 2019 has served as general counsel to the 15th Judicial Circuit Court, which covers Palm Beach. In that capacity, she has provided legal advice to the Chief Judge, Trial Court Administrator, the Circuit’s judicial officers and oversaw the trail court law clerks, among other responsibilities.

Bristow’s prior experience includes services from 2012 to 2019 as a career attorney at the 4th District Court of Appeal, according to her bio with the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. The district covers Palm Beach, Broward, Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties.

Her LinkedIn profile shows she worked from early 2010 to late 2012 in the construction practice of law firm Carlton Fields, where she interned in 2008 while attending Stetson University College of Law.

She replaces Judge Sandra Bosso-Pardo, who retires Sept. 30. Bosso-Pardo made national news in late 2017 when she approved a plea deal for golf star Tiger Woods stemming from his arrest that May for driving under the influence.

Lastly, former 16th Judicial Circuit Court Assistant Public Defender James “Jimmy” Morgan III will join the Monroe County Court as a judge. For the last year, he has worked as chief of staff for Spottswood Hotels in Key Biscayne.

Morgan served on active duty from 2010 to 2018 as a prosecutor in the U.S. Marine Corps and is now in the Corps Reserve. He was admitted to the Florida Bar in September 2009.

A graduate of the University of Florida College of Law — the DeSantis announcement errantly says he attained his law degree from the University of Miami — Morgan will fill a vacancy created by Judge Ruth Becker, who was elected to the Monroe County Court in 1990 and reelected without opposition until she retired July 30.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.



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