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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Crist promotes Labarga to S. Court



706885 Gov. Charlie Crist today appointed Jorge Labarga to the Florida Supreme Court, filling his third of four vacancies on the state's highest tribunal. Labarga, 56, of Wellington, is a native of Cuba who Crist just last week elevated from the Circuit Court in Palm Beach County to the 4th District Court of Appeal.

Labarga will replace Harry Lee Anstead, 71, who must step down from the bench because of the state's mandatory retirement age of 70. Labarga is not without controversy: He made some off-the-cuff remarks from the bench in 2007 that raised questions about his judicial temperament.

Crist, as expected, chose Labarga over another Hispanic finalist, Frank Jimenez, a legal adviser to former Gov. Jeb Bush. Jimenez's name was added to the roster of finalists in a controversial 5-4 vote by the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

Last month a group of lawyers complained that the JNC ''ran afoul of Florida law'' and appeared to bow to political pressure when it nominated Jimenez.

A group of 25 lawyers then countered with their own letter to the JNC's Supreme Court chairman Robert Hackleman supporting the commission's work.

Told Dec. 18 that people were saying "the fix is in" for Jimenez, Crist answered: "They're going to be surprised."

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 3:11pm]


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