Luck, Lagoa on track to leave Florida Supremes

Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck, en route to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, received a friendly vetting Wednesday by a Senate committee.

President Donald Trump tapped the two Florida justices for the Atlanta appeals court just months after Gov. Ron DeSantis named them to serve on the Sunshine State’s highest court.

“Justices Barbara Lagoa and Robert J. Luck faced little pushback from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during their nomination hearing Wednesday morning, as they fielded questions about “judicial activism” and how they would approach precedent as members of the federal judiciary,” The National Law Journal reported Wednesday.

If Lagoa and Luck get the go-ahead to join the appellate court, as is widely anticipated, DeSantis will have the opportunity to appoint two new state court justices to take their place.

That would put the governor in the rare position of appointing five Florida Supreme Court justices in his first term as the state’s chief executive.

The Judicial Nominating Commission is responsible for delivering a list of names to the governor to fill the vacancies.

But that process won’t kick in until Luck and Lagoa officially leave the bench after being confirmed by the Senate, a process which could drag on until December.

Once the vacancies occur, the JNC has 60 days to give a list of possible replacements to the governor and DeSantis will have an additional 60 days to make his choices.


Ben Crump slams Harvard prez over 13th Amendment comments: Beyond tone-deaf and insulting

Website_Attorney-Pohto_Ben-Crump-1-2Harvard president Larry Bacow is under fire for comments he made last week, in which he used the 13th Amendment, which freed slaves, to illustrate a new policy that allows alums at the Ivy League school to donate to any of its colleges.

Bacow apologized for his remarks, saying he understands they may have “unsettled” some who heard them.

“I regret that these comments caused offense,” Bacow said in an internal e-mail, the Boston Globe reported. “That certainly was not my intent.”

From the Globe report:

Bacow had suggested Tuesday that just as the 13th Amendment banned the ownership of African-Americans, Harvard’s individual schools could no longer “own” their specific wealthy graduates, according to those who attended the meeting at the Sanders Theater on campus.

But Bacow’s apology fell far short, at least as far as civil rights lawyer Ben Crump is concerned.

Crump, who’s got ties to Tallahassee, dressed down the Harvard official in a letter:

I must tell you how deeply disturbed I was to hear your recent comments that compared the university’s new policy granting well-heeled alums the “freedom” to donate money to the program of their choice to the Thirteenth Amendment granting freedom to African slaves.

While I agree with those who have called the comments tone deaf and insulting, I believe they go well beyond that. They reveal an utter lack of understanding — and caring — of the horrific toll of slavery and the continuing pain endured by people of color in America, more than 400 years after the start of slavery.

Crump this week was at the side of Brandt Jean at the trial of Amber Guyger, the former Dallas police officer who was convicted of killing Ms. Jean’s 26-year-old son, Botham. Guyger was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for the shooting death of her neighbor.

In Florida, Crump represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the gray hoody-clad, unarmed black teenager who was shot dead by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford seven years ago.

Crump — an FSU grad — has gone on to national acclaim as a civil rights attorney, hosting his own television show and opening offices in numerous states.

Here’s the full text of Crump’s missive to the Harvard president:

“Dear President Bacow:

 I write to you as many things:

As a descendent of African slaves, who recently traveled to Ghana to stand at the “Door of No Return” and imagine my ancestors’ terror in being torn from their homes, transported across the ocean in agonizing conditions, and sold into a brutal life of slavery.  

As the son of a loving black woman who, as a single parent, spent her days working two jobs and scrubbing white people’s floors just to earn enough to keep food on the table for my siblings and me.

 As the first member of my family to graduate from college with an advanced degree.

As a lawyer who has represented the families of dozens of black men who were brutalized by police or slain for the “crime” of being black and presumed dangerous.

In light of all those roles, I must tell you how deeply disturbed I was to hear your recent comments that compared the university’s new policy granting well-heeled alums the “freedom” to donate money to the program of their choice to the Thirteenth Amendment granting freedom to African slaves. 

While I agree with those who have called the comments tone deaf and insulting, I believe they go well beyond that. They reveal an utter lack of understanding — and caring — of the horrific toll of slavery and the continuing pain endured by people of color in America, more than 400 years after the start of slavery.

When you acknowledged how your statement might have “unsettled” some people and then offered the thinnest of apologies (“I regret that these comments caused offense. That certainly was not my intent.”) it further underscored that you just don’t get the African American experience in America. 

Our country requires – and indeed a majority of its population has demanded – a national reckoning on American slavery, its complete history and those effects that 300-years in bondage visited upon African-Americans before and since the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.

As your own website acknowledges, “Harvard was directly complicit in America’s system of racial bondage from the College’s earliest days in the 17th century…and continued to be indirectly involved through extensive financial and other ties to the slave south up to the time of emancipation.”

Harvard is among the most privileged places on earth. But privilege creates blind spots. Your comments on the 13th amendment demonstrate an inordinately large blind spot about the African American experience and the long shadow cast by institutions like Harvard that benefited greatly from slavery.

To quote the recent editorial written by The Harvard Crimson editorial staff: “If Bacow sincerely wishes to meaningfully understand why people found his comments distasteful and to learn from the experience we implore him to do more than just issue a lackluster email apologizing for his audience’s emotions.”

I urge you to take the advice of your students and make a meaningful change.”

New DOAH chief stamps Federalist brand on judge search

tumblr_p01k8iW2pT1tt2fafo1_1280John MacIver has been on the job for just a week, but the new chief judge at the Division of Administrative Hearings is already putting a Federalist Society spin on the joint.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and two Republican members of the Florida Cabinet — Attorney General Ashley Moody and CFO Jimmy Patronis — last week appointed MacIver to take over as head of DOAH, the go-to place for citizens and businesses to redress grievances against state agencies.

MacIver was admitted to The Florida Bar six years ago, and he’s the head of the local chapter of the Federalist Society, the conservative group that supports a “textualist” or “originalist” interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

“The best place where improvement can be made is in the culture of judicial philosophy at DOAH,” MacIver told the Cabinet last week, responding to a question posed by Moody.

MacIver pointed out that, since DeSantis, a Harvard Law School graduate, has taken office, the governor has appointed judges who “respect the separation of powers, respect the rule of law, follow the text of the law based on its common understanding.”

Florida businesses, citizens and legislators, who craft laws, need to have “some predictability in the law” and shouldn’t be “subject to the whim” of judges who have their own policy preferences, MacIver said.

MacIver’s Federalist approach — and his lack of experience — drew some backlash from Democrats, including Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried, who voted against him, and several legislators.

MacIver, whose post requires Senate confirmation, meanwhile appears to have launched the DOAH makeover, as noted in a call-out to the Bar’s Administrative Law Section yesterday.

In an email to Brian Newman, the section’s chairman, MacIver wrote that he’s seeking “resumes for several vacant Administrative Law Judge positions,” and asked Newman to spread the word.

Minimum qualifications for ALJs is five-year membership in the Bar, MacIver noted.

“Additionally, and crucially, I will be seeking applicants who can show a commitment to faithfully upholding the rule of law,” he wrote (we added the emphasis).

Here’s the full text of his message to Newman:

Greetings Mr. Chair:

Please share with your membership my request for resumes for several vacant Administrative Law Judge positions. The official application is available through people first, but I am also accepting resumes and cover letters at The minimum qualification to serve as an Administrative Law Judge is 5-years membership in the Florida Bar. Experience in administrative law and trial practice is highly valued. Additionally, and crucially, I will be seeking applicants who can show a commitment to faithfully upholding the rule of law. I expect the positions to be very competitive, but I’m asking for your help to discourage your members from self-screening their own applications. One of your members might have the unique combination of attributes that would make a perfect Administrative Law Judge—including the humility to think that they don’t—please encourage them to apply.

Respectfully yours,

John MacIver

Director and Chief Administrative Law Judge

Right now, it appears that there is one vacant ALJ position, but several other ALJs are nearing retirement age.

“Freed” or “Fried?” Ag commish stand-up segment in agency promo

It’s not exactly a page out of a David Letterman skit, but Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried did a brief comedy bit to promote her agency’s new website.

Fried used the pronunciation of her last name — “freed” — to tout the launch of the in a video.

Fried, whose name is pronounced “freed,” says on the video that her agency is giving Floridians “an opportunity to have a more user-friendly website, whether to renew a license, “find your local farmer’s market,” or file a consumer complaint.

Fried then demonstrates the ease of filing a consumer complaint by typing one into her laptop. (A random observation: Why is her desk so neat?!)

After posting the complaint, the ag commish immediately receives a call from someone asking for “Miss Nikki Fried?” The unfortunate telephone rep, however, mispronounces Fried’s name as “fried.”

Fried corrects the pronunciation, but before the operator mistakenly refers to her again as “Miss Fried” before the call ends. Fried takes it in stride.

“I guess the new website can’t fix everything, but why don’t you check out and see for yourself,” she quips.

Georgia cashing in on Hurricane Dorian stourmism

Georgia is telling evacuating Floridians that they’ve got hotels and other amenities available, as Hurricane Dorian takes aim at the Sunshine State.
Emily Murray, a spokeswoman for the Georgia’s Department of Economic Development, said the state has launched a website that includes the down-low on hotels and lodging, links to emergency resources and other info about the Peach State for evacuees.

“We’re here to help. Below are resources to help you find hotel and lodging availability, assistance from our Visitor Information Centers and other important emergency resources. If you are concerned about your travel plans for existing reservations, contact your hotel directly,” the website advises.

Murray said in an email that Georgia also has a partnership with Expedia.

Meanwhile, the Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta is offering free admission to Hurricane Dorian evacuees this Labor Day Weekend.

“We understand that being away from home during a storm like this comes with a lot of emotions, including frustration, anxiety, fear, and even boredom,” Molly Deese, Wild Adventure vice president and general manager, said in a release. “We hope that opening our doors to our Florida neighbors this weekend will help provide some moments of relief and fun as they seek shelter.”

The free entrance — available Saturday through Monday — requires proof of residency or a valid ID from a county under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, which could be tricky as Florida has yet to order any evacuations as of Friday afternoon.

— By Jim Turner.

Latest installment in Morgan v. Gillum feud: ‘Massa mentality’ and shaming

For the second day in a row, Orlando trial lawyer and political kingmaker John Morgan and Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum are going mano-a-mano on social media.

The feud between the two escalated Wednesday, when Morgan, during an appearance at a Tiger Bay Club luncheon in the capital city, threatened to sue the former Tallahassee mayor, if Gillum ever runs for office again.

Morgan told the crowd of political insiders that he believes he has a “cause of action” against Gillum over his decision to leave more than $3 million in the bank ahead of the 2018 November election. Gillum narrowly lost to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

After Morgan’s remarks to the Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee garnered headlines on Wednesday, Gillum — who’s been trading barbs with Morgan on Twitter throughout the summer — took the fight to a new social media platform: Instagram.

“John Morgan suffers from what I like to call the ‘Massa’ mentality. A condition where your wealth and ‘supremacy’ deludes you into thinking that you own people,” Gillum wrote in a Thursday morning, alongside a post of a News Service of Florida story entitled “Morgan Warns Gillum Not to Run Again.”

Gillum added in the Instagram post: “He may own many slaves, but I am not one of them.”

Morgan fired back on Twitter and on Instagram three hours later:

@AndrewGillum if you gave someone $250K to build an orphanage & instead they kept the money to promote themselves I think you would be outraged!! That’s what is happening here. I don’t have slaves, but I am fighting to eliminate slave wages in Florida. My people make $15/hr. You really should be so ashamed of what you did. #FollowTheMoney 💸

When one of Gillum’s Instagram followers asked him about the unspent campaign money, Gillum — who’s now a CNN contributor — provided a lengthy response:


— By Ana Ceballos.



Sotomayor: Florida death penalty rule ‘Kafkaesque’

Franz_Kafka_1917U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor signed off on a recent decision denying a stay of execution for Gary Ray Bowles, a serial killer who targeted gay men, before Bowles was put to death shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday.

But Sotomayor hinted that the state’s rules may need to be revisited.

Here’s an ABA Journal article breaking down Sotomayor’s statement:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed concern last week about a Florida procedural rule that makes it difficult for death-row inmates to assert claims that their mental disability is a constitutional bar to execution.

Sotomayor called the rule “Kafkaesque” in a statement on cert denial for Gary Ray Bowles, a serial killer who targeted gay men, report Bloomberg Law, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and CNN. Bowles was executed Thursday.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia in 2002 that executions of mentally disabled inmates violate the Eighth Amendment.

In Hall v. Florida in 2016, the U.S. SuprU.eme Court struck down Florida’s bright-line IQ threshold for asserting a mental disability that would exempt inmates from execution. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that same year that the Supreme Court decision applied to prisoners sentenced before the 2016 Supreme Court ruling.

But the Florida Supreme Court has also held that inmates claiming retroactive protection under Hall must have asserted an earlier claim of intellectual disability based on Atkins. Bowles didn’t raise his claim of intellectual disability until 2017, according to an Aug. 13 Florida Supreme Court decision denying his claim.

Sotomayor criticized Florida’s requirement for inmates to have asserted an intellectual disability claim before the Supreme Court overturned Florida’s bright-line IQ rule. Under the rule, Florida did not consider an inmate to be mentally disabled unless he or she had an IQ of 70 or below. Bowles had prior IQ test scores of 74, 80 and 83.

“This Kafkaesque procedural rule is at odds with another Florida rule requiring counsel raising an intellectual-disability claim to have a ‘good faith’ basis to believe that a death-sentenced client is intellectually disabled (presumably under the limited definition of intellectual disability that Florida had then imposed),” Sotomayor said.

Sotomayor also said Florida’s procedural rule “creates grave tension with this court’s guidance in Montgomery v. Louisiana,” a 2016 Supreme Court decision giving retroactive effect to an earlier decision barring mandatory life in prison without parole for juveniles.

Sotomayor said Bowles’ cert petition raised an Eighth Amendment claim but did not address concerns based on Montgomery.

“Because I do not believe that the questions as presented merit this court’s review at this time, I do not disagree with the denial of certiorari,” she said. “In an appropriate case, however, I would be prepared to revisit a challenge to Florida’s procedural rule.”