FL’s Barbara Lagoa will remain on 11th Circuit, but state Republicans happy with Trump’s Scotus pick

Gov. Ron DeSantis listens as Barbara Lagoa speaks after he named her to the Florida Supreme Court on January 9, 2019, in Miami. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Cuban-American judge Barbara Lagoa is not going to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. At least not yet.

President Trump announced Saturday that his choice to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not Lagoa but Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative jurist who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which covers the Midwest states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

The word had leaked nearly 24 hours ahead of Trump’s announcement.

GOP figures in Florida, including U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis, had openly pined for Trump to place the first Floridian on the nation’s highest court. Such a move was seen as a way to cement support among Hispanic voters in the nation’s largest swing state, where Trump is running more or less in a tie with Democrat Joe Biden.

There was no immediate reaction from DeSantis but other Republican officials who opined on the pick were enthusiastic.

President Donald Trump chooses Judge Amy Coney Barrett for his U.S. Supreme Court nominee. Credit: Wikipedia; Rachel Malehorn. Photo from 2018.

“Phenomenal pick by @realDonaldTrump. Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be a faithful servant to the rule of law. Tremendous to see another working mother nominated to serve on the nation’s highest court,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody wrote.

“Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a highly respected jurist with the legal philosophy of (the late) Justice (Antonin) Scalia. She will defend our Constitutional rights and apply the law as it’s written. Excellent nomination by President @realDonaldTrump,” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said on Twitter..

“Amy Coney Barrett has a distinguished record of service to our nation, respects the separate roles of our three branches of government and will apply and follow the law as-written, not legislate from the bench,” Scott said in a written statement.

“I look forward to meeting with her to hear more about her judicial philosophy and her views on the important legal issues of our time. And I hope the Senate can move swiftly to hold a vote to confirm her to the Supreme Court,” he said.

Rubio remarked about concern in some quarters that Barrett’s religious faith could influence her jurisprudence.

“Today the assault may be on Catholicism. But tomorrow, no religion will be safe from the same attacks. And then the message will be clear, if you want to serve in public office, especially on the highest court in the land, only those willing to hide or deny their faith need apply,” Rubio tweeted.

CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond reported via Twitter that Lagoa might make the cut for a Supreme Court nomination in a second Trump term, should that come to pass.

“On the eve of announcing his SCOTUS pick, Trump told supporters at a fundraiser last night that he has 2nd term plans for Judge Lagoa — the runner up. After FL lobbyist and fundraiser Brian Ballard raised Lagoa, I’m told Trump said: “Let her know she’s going to have her chance,” Diamond wrote Saturday afternoon.

“People in the room took this as a suggestion that Trump may nominate Lagoa to the Court when the next vacancy arises, should he win a 2nd term, The comment came as Trump was polling donors about the SCOTUS decision last night — even as he made clear ACB would be his pick,” Diamond continued.

Asked what effect passing over Lagoa might have on the fall elections, two GOP leaders said during a conference call with reporters Friday that that it likely wouldn’t matter as long as Trump chose a conservative.

“I don’t think that by not picking the justice from Florida the president’s going to lose anything in Florida,” U.S. Rep. Greg Steube of Southwest Florida said.

He pointed to one recent poll that gave Trump a 4-point lead over Joe Biden in the state, although that was within the margin for error.

“As long as the president appoints somebody who is a constitutional justice who’s going to uphold the Constitution and follow the law and not create law on the bench, I think that’s going to make conservatives, and make those that are in the Republican Party, very, very happy,” he said.

Joe Gruters, a state senator also from Southwest Florida who serves as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, pointed to evidence the ugly fight to confirm Justice Brent Kavanaugh energized GOP voters in swing states during the 2018 elections, when Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis narrowly won their races for U.S. Senate and the governor’s office.

(The GOP retained control of the Senate that year but Democrats recaptured control of the House of Representatives.)

“It was that nomination, I think, that led people for vote for Republicans across the country to make sure that we returned Republicans to the U.S. Senate so that we would have the votes to vote for the people that are on the list that he gave the American people,” Gruters said, referring to Trump’s list of potential nominees.

Lagoa’s rise has been meteoric since DeSantis raised her to the Florida Supreme Court soon after taking office in January 2019. She served there for only 336 days before President Trump placed her on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which hears cases originating in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. She joined that court in December.

Lagoa, 52, is the daughter of Cuban exiles who graduated from Columbia Law Schools before joining the Miami office of the Greenberg Traurig law firm. While there, she participated in the legal team that fought the U.S. government over it’s attempt to return a small boy, Elian Gonzalez, who’s mother had died while fleeing Cuba with him, to his father there.

She served a long stretch on the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeal, an intermediate appellate court that sits in Miami.

Like other of DeSantis’ picks for the appellate bench, Lagoa is affiliated with the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, which grooms young lawyers to assume places in the conservative legal movement. Members advise both Trump and DeSantis on judicial selections.

She has sided with both DeSantis and Trump in ruling that felons must repay all court-ordered financial obligations irrespective of their ability to do so under Florida’s Amendment 4.

Judge Barrett is a favorite among conservatives for her anti-abortion views.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo released the following statement about Trump’s pick:
“For Floridians, this nomination is about the future of our health care, our rights, and our environment. In the midst of a deadly pandemic, this nomination brings Donald Trump closer than ever to taking health care away from millions of Floridians, including our loved ones with pre-existing conditions. Amy Coney Barrett disagreed with Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion upholding the ACA in 2012 — sending a chilling message about what she would do on the Supreme Court. Millions of Floridians have already been sent their ballots for the November election and their voices should be heard in this critical decision.”