Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed a Leon County judge Tuesday to sit on the circuit court that handles most of the litigation involving the state government in Tallahassee, replacing a long-time judge who handed a string of legal defeats to his predecessor’s administration during her tenure.
Stephen Everett, who currently serves as a judge in county court, will replace outgoing circuit court judge Karen Gievers when she is required to step down by her 70th birthday near the end of April.
"I’m impressed with Judge Everett’s temperament, his knowledge of the law and his understanding of the proper role of a judge,” DeSantis said, as Everett stood next to him during the announcement. “He will bring a real strong work ethic, great intellect and humility to his new role as a circuit judge.”
Everett, 38, won out over five other candidates who had been recommended by the Second Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission to fill the seat, including FDLE general counsel Jason L. Jones and the Agency for State Technology general counsel Anthony B. Miller. The announcement happened quickly, DeSantis acknowledged — he had interviewed Everett for the seat just that morning.
Everett’s appointment fills the impending gap in Leon County circuit court, which handles most of the lawsuits filed against the state by virtue of its location in the capital. Gievers, who was first elected to the seat in 2010, earned a reputation for being a sharp legal thorn in former Gov. Rick Scott’s side, ruling against the state in a series of high-profile cases including a challenge to a ban on smoking medical marijuana and a case involving Joe Redner, the Tampa strip club owner seeking to grow his own medical marijuana for his lung cancer. She also ruled against Scott when she allowed a legal challenge to the former governor’s blind trust to proceed.
Gievers, a former child advocate in Miami-Dade, had tried twice to run for statewide office and failed, once for insurance commissioner in 1994 and once for secretary of state in 1998. She lost both times.
Everett was appointed to county court by Scott in 2016 and won re-election last year. Before becoming a judge, he was an assistant public defender and assistant prosecutor in Fort Myers and Sarasota respectively. He also worked in the general counsel’s office at the Department of Economic Opportunity.