FL Supreme Court nominees will just have to wait — Gov. DeSantis is tied up fighting COVID-19

Florida Supreme Court
Florida Supreme Court. Shutterstock.com

Gov. Ron DeSantis will miss Monday’s deadline for naming two new members of the Florida Supreme Court. Blame COVID-19.

Although he has interviewed at least some of the nine people nominated to fill the vacancies on the state’s high court, “I have not had time to really read all the opinions in the way I think I need to, or the writing samples,” DeSantis said during a news conference in the state Capitol.

“I will most likely delay, under the state of emergency, that deadline. Probably push it back to May 1,” he said.

“I think there are some great candidates. I’m not saying you could really even go wrong. But I don’t think my time is very well spent right now” vetting nominees,” DeSantis said.

“The court is functioning fine, for me to be taking my eye off the ball of the stuff that everyone’s so concerned about to be reading some of these opinions.”

A judicial nominating commission proposed the nine candidates on Jan. 23 and the governor is supposed to take 60 days to make his choices. The panel sent him copious backup material including financial disclosure forms and examples of court rulings or other materials they’ve written.

The nominees give DeSantis a chance to add some diversity to the seven-member court — three have Hispanic roots, four are men, five are women, and one is African American. The court hasn’t had an African-American justice since Peggy Quince (and the rest of the court’s liberal wing) were forced into retirement at the end of 2018.

DeSantis, a conservative Republican with a law degree from Harvard, has been using his judicial appointments to push the state’s courts to the right. Like the governor himself, every one of the nine nominees have ties to the ideologically conservative-libertarian Federalist Society.

DeSantis signed a broad emergency declaration on March 9 giving him power to wield the machinery of state agencies to fight the COVID-19 pandemics and meetings, phone calls, and press conferences discussing the crisis have been consuming his daily schedule.

For updates on the caseload, please refer to the Florida Phoenix’s The Phoenix Flyer stream.