Ashley Moody

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.

Inquiring minds headed to Israel

Gov. Ron DeSantis is about to lead a four-day trip to Israel, with nearly 90 tag-alongs that include Cabinet members, top-tier lobbyists, state lawmakers and religious leaders.

The governor publicly announced the trip in April, but since then the planning of the trip and questions about it have largely been kept secret. But as the voyage gets closer, the drip-drop of details are putting a spotlight on some of what’s in store.

One lingering question is how much the trip will cost Florida taxpayers. DeSantis’ spokeswoman Helen Ferre said about 80 members of the entourage are paying their own way.

At least one person footing their own bill said they’re staying at the Hilton in Tel Aviv, where they’ll be joined by a number of other members of the delegation who may be traveling on the taxpayer dime.

What’s the cost for one of those rooms? Accommodations range from $556 to $1,133 per night, according to the hotel’s website.

While questions about the cost and the substance of state officials’ meetings remain, two news organizations have announced they will be sending reporters to keep Floridians informed.

As of Thursday afternoon, two reporters have signed on to take the trip to Israel: Jeff Schweers, a state government reporter with the USA TODAY Network in Florida, and AG Gancarski, a reporter with Florida Politics.

“Coming next week (and assuming he gets past customs), intrepid reporter @AGGancarski will be reporting from @GovRonDeSantis and the Florida Cabinet’s historic trip to Jerusalem,” tweeted Peter Schorsch, the publisher of Florida Politics.

Schweers also got a last-minute OK from his company to make the trip.

By Ana Ceballos.

“Mechanical failures” right out of the gate prompt Oliva, Fried to call for state plane

galerie_military_aviation1That didn’t take long.

For just the handful of days since he was sworn in Tuesday, new Gov. Ron DeSantis has been buzzing around the state on a plan seized in a drug bust by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

But as DeSantis and his entourage were en route to a press conference in South Florida Friday afternoon, the plane was diverted to St. Petersburg due to “mechanical failures,” according to the governor’s office. On board with the governor were Attorney General Ashley Moody; DeSantis’ chief of staff, Shane Strum; and three other EOG aides, according to the governor’s office.

Former Gov. Rick Scott, a mega-millionaire who used his own private jet to travel around the state, sold off the state plane shortly after taking office as part of a government cost-cutting spree.

But DeSantis, with a reported net worth of just over $310,000, likely doesn’t have the dough to plunk down for an air bus.

The “mechanical failures” of the plane carrying the governor of the nation’s third-largest state — which, oh by the way, has an annual budget of more than $80 billion and is, dare we point out, gosh-darn HUGE — and one of its three Cabinet members, days after they took office, drew a hasty response from House Speaker Jose Oliva on the “need for safe and reliable transportation for the governor.”

“The Members of the House of Representatives are thankful that the Governor’s plane landed safely after reporting mechanical difficulties.  Today’s incident, combined with the sheer size of our state, starkly reminds us that we need a safe and reliable means of transportation for the chief executive. The House stands ready to work with the Governor’s office to ensure such transportation is obtained,” Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said in a statement.
The plane isn’t available to Cabinet members, just DeSantis, but Moody was part of the group headed to the Fort Lauderdale area for the press conference where the governor announced he had suspended embattled Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
The plane kerfuffle prompted new Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to chime in.

“As statewide public servants in one of the largest states in the nation, an efficient method of air transportation is prudent to best serve our constituents, conduct state business, and carry out the duties of our offices. Cost-effective and responsible use of state aircraft would enhance our situational response and our availability to the people of Florida. I’m grateful that Governor DeSantis, Attorney General Moody, and all onboard landed safely – today’s aircraft incident underscores the importance of dependable transportation for Cabinet members,” Fried said in a statement.




AG candidates lassoed for Federalist’s Disney confab

Four candidates for attorney general are expected to appear together at a Federalist Society powwow near Orlando next month.

Democrat Ryan Torrens  and Republican Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville, Rep. Frank White of Pensacola and former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody have agreed to participate in a panel discussion on Feb. 3 as part of the annual Federalist Society Florida Chapters Conference at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Report in Lake Buena Vista, according to an announcement released Wednesday.

State Reps. Ross Spano, a Republican from Dover, and Sean Shaw, a Democrat from Tampa, have also invited, but have yet to reply, the Society noted on Wednesday.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Cabinet post last year and seeking re-election to the job, will appear at the conference on Feb. 2.

Two officials from President Donald Trump’s administration — EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta — and Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi are also slated to appear.

By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.

Fant’s Trump “supporters” say what?

Here’s the latest episode in the drama between Jay Fant and Ashley Moody’s camps as the GOP attorney general battle continues to heat up.

Fant’s camp brought out the knives last week in an apparent effort to slow down the  momentum Moody appears to be gaining in the GOP contest for attorney general.

Fant, a state House member from Jacksonville, asked Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia to blackball Moody, a former judge from Tampa, from the state party’s next annual meeting in January. Ingoglia, a fellow state rep, quickly put the ixnay on the idea.

Fant’s campaign, guided by longtime Gov. Rick Scott advisor Melissa Stone, then announced that Fant had received “endorsements from Trump campaign county chairs that were instrumental in President Donald Trump’s 2016 win.”

Just one problem: Some of the folks on the list haven’t endorsed Fant.

Carolyn Otworth, the Clay County chair of the Trump Club, said her name was included on the list without her approval. Otworth told Truth Or Dara this weekend she hadn’t signed a form endorsing Fant, and hasn’t decided whether to back the candidate.

“I was just shocked that anyone would say I endorsed them when I did not,” Otworth, who served as the Clay county chair of Trump’s presidential campaign, said. “He seems like a really nice person, though.”

Fant called her late Friday to apologize, and promised her name would be removed from the list, Otworth said.

Florida law makes it a crime for “any candidate or person on behalf of a candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate, unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.”

In an email, Stone said this about the Otworth situation: “After several conversations, she asked not be included on list at this time. We will update the list to remove her while adding additional endorsements coming in.”

But Otworth maintained she had never given permission for her name to be included in the endorsement roundup.

The kerfuffle over the endorsements prompted Ken Mayo, who served as director of Florida field operations for Trump’s presidential campaign, to send a long explainer to supporters, arguing that Fant is the most Trumpian candidate.

As most of you probably already know, a press release went out yesterday with a number of us “endorsing” Jay for Attorney General.  I’m sending this in response to a number of calls I’ve received in reference to the release and also in reference to a couple of calls I’ve received about certain individuals supporting one of Jay’s opponents.

In reference to the release I’ve gotten a few calls about some of the (minor) mistakes listed on the press release.  I understand your concerns that it shouldn’t have happened, but sometimes in campaigns things are moving fast and slip through the cracks.  No excuse.  Just a fact.  Don’t think it doesn’t happen in every campaign.  It does and if anyone tells you otherwise they are not telling you the truth.  Sometimes mistakes can do major damage to a campaign and in other cases they are very minor in the big scheme of things.  The mistakes on this release are clearly in the later category.  In fact, other than those of us that are on the list, and maybe a few other Trump supporters that might want to take advantage of it, the people on the streets have no idea, nor do they care, so don’t let this get you worked up.  And don’t let anyone try and drive a wedge between you and Jay over this.  The key to missteps like this is getting on top of them and making necessary corrections so they don’t happen in the future.  I assure you Jay’s team is doing that.

As for the second issue it seems some people are being told they should rescind their endorsement of Jay because the president is supporting Ashley Moody.  If you are hearing such things make sure you are doing your due diligence.  Ask for confirmation of such a claim before you step back from what is now a public commitment on your part.  You are leaders in your community, and knowing that I would advise against such a move without hard proof.  It can make you look wishy washy.  A flip-flopper.  And by the way, there are many MAGA (groups) in the country and in our state, and no one owns the MAGA mantle except Donald Trump.  Being told if you support Jay and not Ashley means you are not supporting the president is nonsense.  Don’t let anyone try and persuade you otherwise.  Ask yourself this question.  In 2015 and 2016 do you feel you were not a legitimate supporter of the president and his MAGA vision until you got an official confirmation or approval from someone on the campaign?  Of course not.

And last, remember this, the primary is in August, so don’t let anyone play games by saying the endorsement of Ashley Moody will be forthcoming next year, and then it keeps getting pushed off month after month, pushing us ever so closer to the primary when it’s to late to do anything about it.  A tactic like that can be used to simply to drive a wedge between you and someone you are supporting, damage that person in your mind, and then the endorsement never comes.  Don’t be suckered by such “tactics”.  Demand proof.  There is no question Jay was (and is) a supporter of the President (see the links below).  Yet in my opinion there is every reason to question if Ashley was (or is).  And don’t be misled by the claim that because she was a judge she couldn’t do so publicly.  That is way to convenient.

Jay Fant is not only a Trump supporter, but is the only candidate running for this position that can (as far as I know) substantiate that claim.   He was there in the beginning.  The very first rally in Florida had Jay on the stage endorsing the president.  And for me personally, when I add the “fact” that Jay was working closely with conservative grass roots leaders in the early days, and ran for office based on conservative principles, there is no question in my mind that he is what he says he is.

I endorsed Jay Fant and will continue to do so.

Ken Mayo

House Republicans Frank White of Pensacola and Ross Spano of Dover are also in the running.

Another UPDATE: Fant wants “true liberal” Moody blackballed from RPOF meeting

SECOND UPDATE: This response from Ashley Moody campaign spokeswoman, Christina Johnson:

“It is laughable that a candidate running to be Florida’s Chief Legal Officer would offer up such erroneous and egregious attacks on the proven record of a former and well respected federal prosecutor and circuit court judge. Ashley Moody is pro-Second Amendment and the only candidate who has supported Second Amendment priorities like Stand Your Ground in the courtroom. These are real world distinctions that matter to voters, and issues which Ashley Moody has shared with Republican activists across the state these last months and throughout her career. Not only is Ashley Moody a staunch supporter of our President, but she has secured the endorsements of those who worked tirelessly on behalf of the President’s campaign, including law enforcement officials and elected leaders across the state. We look forward to highlighting these conservative values at the January RPOF meeting.”

UPDATED: RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia gave us this smackdown about Jay Fant’s request to have Ashley Moody banned from the party’s annual meeting next month:

“All Republicans running for statewide office are welcome to attend RPOF meetings. We will not, and should not, interject ourselves in the middle of primaries. Nor, should the RPOF become the arbiter of a candidates conservative credentials. If Rep. Fant thinks this will resonate with the electorate, then take it directly to the primary voters,” said RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia.

Here’s the original post:

Ouch. Our eyeballs are on fire after reading GOP attorney general candidate Jay Fant’s blistering attack against opponent Ashley Moody.

Fant, a Republican state House member from Jacksonville, sent a letter to Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia — who, oh by the way, serves in the House with Fant — asking the party boss to ban Moody from the RPOF’s January meeting because she’s “a true liberal and proud of it.”

Moody, a former judge, has garnered a mile-high pile of endorsements from law enforcement leaders and others throughout the state and amassed a finance team that’s  a veritable GOP who’s who, including influential lobbyist Brian Ballard.

Fant, who’s’ trailing Moody in fundraising even after dumping $750,000 of his own money into his campaign, accuses Moody of having close ties to the Clinton family — her father was appointed by Bill Clinton to the federal bench. Moody once worked as a speechwriter for “left wing” former American Bar Association President Martha Barnett who is a “close ally” of Hillary Clinton,  Fant wrote to Ingoglia. And Moody even sued President Donald Trump (long before he moved into the White House) over a failed development project, Fant pointed out.

Fant says it’s “in the party’s best interest” to blackball Moody from the RPOF’s annual meeting in January.

“The 2018 election ballot is absolutely critical from top to bottom and we simply cannot waste time with candidates who have to hide their past involvement with the Clintons in order to win,” he wrote.

Fant’s asking that the party leadership “refuse Ashley Moody access to the annual meeting and immediately discontinue RPOF’s indirect support of her campaign” through in-kind resources like staff, “that already total more than $23,000,” according to campaign finance reports.

Moody and Fant will face off in the GOP primary against two other state reps — Frank White of Pensacola and Ross Spano of Dover.

We’ve reached out to Moody’s camp for a response, and we’ll update if we get one.