TALLAHASSEE — A former appellate judge asked the Florida Supreme Court on Monday to order Gov. Charlie Crist to appoint his replacement from a list of six nominees even although none is black.
Retired 5th District Court of Appeal Judge Robert J. Pleus Jr. said he felt he had no alternative because Crist has refused to name a successor after a nominating commission rejected the governor's demand for a slate including black nominees.
The appellate court in Daytona Beach has no full-time black judges. Crist has stressed diversity in recent court appointments and named Hispanic and black justices to fill the past two vacancies on the Supreme Court.
The 5th District appointment should have been made by Jan. 5, from the six names already submitted, Pleus said.
"After repeated efforts to get movement from the governor's office, I have now determined that we must assure compliance with the Constitution," Pleus said in a statement.
The Florida Constitution states that the governor shall make an appointment within 60 days after getting a certified list of three to six nominations.
That leaves Crist no choice, said Pleus' lawyer, Florida State University president-emeritus Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte.
"I want to review the pleading before making a determination," Crist said in Miami. "I guess we're in a bit of a standoff. … The issue for me is pretty straightforward. Diversity is very important to me." Crist commented after touring the set of the television show Burn Notice, which is filmed in Miami.
The governor in December asked the 5th District Court of Appeal Nominating Commission to send him a new list, writing that "at least three well-qualified African-Americans" had applied. But the panel resubmitted the same nominees. Commission chairman James H. Fallace, a Melbourne lawyer, wrote Crist that those six are the most qualified.