Panel will work around holidays to vet fresh candidates for the Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court. Photo by Colin Hackley.

Update: Gov. Ron DeSantis formally asked the commission on Monday evening to begin its search for replacements for the now-former Florida Supreme Court justices. The commission set a 6 p.m. Dec. 24 deadline for submitting applications.

An advisory panel expects to begin interviewing potential justices of the Florida Supreme Court in mid- to late January, depending on when Gov. Ron DeSantis gives the formal go-ahead to solicit applications.

“We’ll be able to get the governor some names on that time frame,” Daniel Nordby, chairman of the judicial nominating commission for the Supreme Court, said Monday.

He spoke during a conference call as members of the panel outlined procedures for replacing Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck following their confirmation to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I’ve spoken with the governor’s office and I anticipate a formal request to convene will be sent to us shortly as justices Lagoa and Luck formally submit their resignations and receive their federal commissions to the 11th Circuit,” Nordby said.

“With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, though, I didn’t want us to lose any time in advertising the vacancies once we are requested to convene.”

The nominating commission and applicants also will have to work around the Christmas holiday, Nordby said. “It’s just the reality of the calendar, though, that there are going to be some difficulties at the end of this year and the beginning of next.”

Staff at the 11th Circuit did not reply to an emailed request for an update on the jurists’ status.

The panel agreed to accept applications for one month, to be followed by a period of vetting the material, with interviews and deliberations spread over a week or two before the deadline for sending nominations to the governor. It has 60 days to work, and DeSantis will have another 60 days to make his choices.

The commission expects to do most of its work, including interviewing candidates, during weekends to accommodate the day jobs of both commissioners and candidates.

DeSantis has explained that he looks for conservative judges who won’t impose their own policy views over those enacted by the Legislature. That appears likely to produce rulings upholding the GOP-dominated state House and Senate priorities on issues including abortion, state support for religious institutions, and access to the courts.

In identifying potential judges, the governor has looked to members of the Federalist Society, the conservative-libertarian organization that also evaluates judicial appointments for the Trump administration.

Nordby, a partner at the Shutts Bowen law firm, himself is a member. So are Lagoa and Luck, whom DeSantis appointed to the Supreme Court during his first weeks in office, and the governor himself.

At least one of the new justices will have to live in Miami-Dade or Monroe counties, the jurisdiction of Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal. The Florida Constitution requires that each of the state’s five appellate districts must be represented by at least one justice, and Lagoa and Luck both hailed from that area.