Ron DeSantis

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.

 

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 Recruiting@Doah.state.fl.us. 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.

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:

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— 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.”

DeSantis team defends judge … on Twitter

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office pushed back Wednesday against a news website that questioned the residency of a recently appointed judicial circuit judge.

The Florida Daily reported Tuesday the Seminole County Property Appraiser’s website lists Michael Kraynick as holding a homestead in Seminole County, “about two miles over the border from Orange County since 2016.”

The website also noted that Kraynick, in his application to the Judicial Nominating Commission, listed the Seminole County address for his home and voter registration.

The state Constitution requires justices and judges to live and be registered to vote within their court’s jurisdiction.

DeSantis’ spokeswoman Helen Ferre tweeted Wednesday the residency issue was corrected before Kraynick took the oath of office.

In June, DeSantis appointed Kraynick and Diego Madrigal III as judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Orange and Osceola counties.

In the release from the governor’s office, Kraynick is listed as a resident of Winter Park, which is an Orange County suburb.

— By Jim Turner.

Gwen Graham tweet storm credits DeSantis ‘puppeteers’ for post-election ‘bait and switch’

Former congresswoman Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Florida governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham who last year sought the Democratic nomination for governor, went on a Twitter rant Monday morning against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his “puppeteers.”

Graham lost a heated primary bid for the Democratic nomination to former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who was defeated by DeSantis in November.

In her first tweet storm, Graham called the legislative session that ended in May “the worst ever, if you care about the future of Florida,” hitting on voting rights, education, LGBTQ rights, guns and other issues.

Here’s the rest of Graham’s Twitter posts:

“If DeSantis actually cared about increasing the opportunities for Floridians to vote, he would have vetoed that bill. If he actually cared about our environment, he would have vetoed the toll road to nowhere. (The plastic straw veto was the “bait” on that one.)

“If DeSantis actually cared about a quality education for all students, he would have shunned the advances of @JebBush/@richardcorcoran and the for profit education industry in Florida. I was sick when I heard about Corcoran becoming Commissioner. The man hates public education.

“If DeSantis actually cared about the LGBTQ community, he would have expanded anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. A “bait” trip to the Pulse nightclub without action is just what it is – a photo op and nothing more.

“If DeSantis was concerned about gun violence and mass shootings, he would have vetoed the @NRA bill that arms our teachers. More guns =‘s more deaths. Hard stop. But, with an NRA endorsed, A rated Gov, Marion Hammer got what she wanted. Even @SenRickScott stood up to her on that.

“If DeSantis wanted to prove that he wasn’t a Lil’ Trump, he would not have supported the unnecessary bill banning sanctuary cities. In a state as diverse as Florida, the Gov sent the message that he is okay with stoking fear, hatred and divisiveness. Just like @realDonaldTrump.

“So, to those who say, “He isn’t as bad as I thought he would be.” I say, “Congrats to the DeSantis’ puppeteers.” And, to anyone who cares about Florida and her future, stop taking their bait. What the Governor has done is far worse than bad. Tragically a lot of time to go.”

— By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.

 

Book pushes for state probe of Epstein work-release deal

Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, is trying to rally support behind her call for Gov. Ron DeSantis order a state investigation into how the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office handled sex offender Jeffrey Epstein while he was in its custody more than a decade ago.

Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who says she’s gotten calls to “back off” her investigation request, wants people to “stand” with her in demanding an “independent investigation.”

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Book’s making the ask through the website of Lauren’s Kids, the non-profit organization she founded aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.

Book is using social media to drum up support for her effort.

DeSantis said last week he was considering whether state law-enforcement officials had an oversight role.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has started an internal affairs and criminal investigations into the Epstein matter.

Epstein is facing sex-trafficking charges involving minors in Florida and New York. A federal judge in New York has denied a request for bail.

Epstein previously served 13 months of an 18-month sentence after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to two state prostitution charges in Florida, including procuring a minor for sex.

The plea required him to register as a sex offender. While in custody, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade, according to the Miami Herald, which has done extensive reporting on Epstein.

After more than three months in custody, Epstein was provided work release for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, the Herald reported.

“I know they are investigating it down in Palm Beach, but clearly when you look at how that happened, even if, like, 10 percent of the things about him are true, then that whole (plea) agreement was suspect and woefully below what he should have faced,” DeSantis said Thursday. “I’ll look at it and see, can the state can exercise some good oversight there.”

By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.