Gov. DeSantis asks, Supreme Court delivers: COVID vax grand jury empaneled

Coronavirus Vaccine bottle Corona Virus COVID-19 Covid vaccines panoramic view
DeSantis made vaccinating senior citizens a top priority

Contending that its role in whether to empanel a statewide grand jury is largely “ministerial,” the Florida Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for a statewide investigation into whether vaccine manufacturers committed any wrongdoing in the development, marketing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose administration has been increasing its skepticism of the vaccines taken by millions of Floridians, asked for the grand jury last week.

The court signed off on the request late Thursday, but it was not a unanimous decision. Five justices concurred, but the ruling noted Justice Jorge Labarga voted to deny the petition submitted by DeSantis. Justice Renatha Francis, who joined the court earlier this year, did not participate.

The brief, four-page ruling did not explain why Labarga voted to deny the request. 

The very top of the order the court cites a previous ruling from the ’80s that quotes an advisory opinion from the ’70s, that opines the review is limited to whether the petition from the Governor meets statutory requirements.

The new grand jury will be presided over by Circuit Judge Ronald Ficcarotta, the Chief Judge of the Hillsborough County Circuit. It will be empaneled for 12 months and prospective jurors will be selected from five different circuits, all in central or southwest Florida.

DeSantis was a booster of COVID-19 vaccines when they were first developed. 

After the vaccines were first approved, demand outpaced supply so the federal government outlined a three-phase roll-out plan. The plan did not make people age 75 and older a top priority. DeSantis ignored the recommendations and issued an executive order in December directing that vaccine doses be given to staff members and residents of long-term care centers, people ages 65 and older, and people who hospitals deemed were high risk.

Since then, his administration, led primarily by State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, has questioned the efficacy of vaccines and whether they are too risky for certain members of the population.

The Governor’s petition to the high court stated “the pharmaceutical industry has a notorious history of misleading the public for financial gain. Questions have been raised regarding the veracity of the representation made by the pharmaceutical manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly with respect to transmission, prevention, efficacy and safety.” The petition also said “an investigation is warranted to determine whether the pharmaceutical industry has engaged in fraudulent practices.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the outgoing White House medical adviser who has drawn the ire of DeSantis in the past, pushed back on the need for a grand jury. During an appearance on CNN last week, Fauci pointed to a recent study that had found the vaccine had saved millions of lives.

“I don’t have a clue … what’s he asking for,” Fauci said.

This is the third time DeSantis has requested a statewide grand jury during his time as Governor.

The first one he requested was primarily aimed at looking at how schools were responding to new laws and mandates in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre in Parkland. The second one was charged with investigating criminal activity related to migrants entering the country and Florida illegally.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


  • cassandra

    December 23, 2022 at 2:26 pm

    “DeSantis ignored the recommendations.” Desantis’ motivations for doing so must be examined: Was he using the elderly as trial subjects to determine vaccine safety before making it available to “essential workers” who could not be absent with side effects because they were needed for his economy?

    Did Desantis benefit financially or otherwise from initially pushing the vaccines, as a result of his donor’s company being invested in both Pfizer and Moderna? What about later when he pushed the monoclonal Regeneron, in which top donor Ken Griffen’s company Citadel had invested millions of dollars?

    These are questions that will need to be answered during the investigation.

    • TJC

      December 23, 2022 at 2:51 pm

      And you can bet those questions will not be asked. DeSantis has specifically ordered this grand jury to look at the pharmaceutical companies, not at him or his cronies. He is gambling that the disastrous opioid epidemic unleashed by Big Pharma will outweigh the millions of lives saved by the covid vaccines in the minds of his followers. In any case, it is a gamble that he figures he can’t lose, because he is getting the national attention he wants right up front, which is what this is really all about. It’s all about Ron.

  • PeterH

    December 23, 2022 at 9:44 pm

    According to today’s detailed article in The Atlantic……. Red States who voted for Trump in 2020 and Republicans lead the nation in COVID 19 deaths. 37% of Republicans are unvaccinated.

    We are currently are experiencing 500 COVID deaths per day in the USA. This disease could wipe out an entire political party if the ridiculous intransigence continues.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704