TALLAHASSEE — A state panel Monday nominated five judges, including a woman and a Hispanic man, for a Florida Supreme Court opening.
The Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission sent the names to Gov. Charlie Crist. He will appoint a replacement for Justice Harry Lee Anstead, 71, who is retiring in January when his current six-year term ends.
The commission met behind closed doors in Tampa to deliberate after interviewing 18 applicants, including 10 judges, for the at-large seat on the seven-member high court. The vacancy is the third for the state's high court in less than a year.
The nominees are 5th District Court of Appeal Judge C. Alan Lawson of Daytona Beach and Circuit Judges Kevin Emas of Miami, Gill Freeman of Miami, Jorge Labarga of West Palm Beach and Waddell Wallace III of Jacksonville.
Crist had urged the commission to send him a slate reflecting the state's diversity. The Supreme Court has one black justice and two female justices — Chief Justice Peggy Quince is in both of those categories — but no Hispanics. None of the judges nominated Monday was black.
The governor filled both previous vacancies, each the result of a resignation, over the past four months with non-Hispanic white males.
Crist passed over two Hispanic nominees, including Labarga, for an at-large seat given up by former Justice Raoul Cantero, the Supreme Court's first Hispanic member.
Labarga, a Cuban native, played a role during Florida's historic 2000 presidential recount, ruling Palm Beach County elections officials could not necessarily disregard irregular chad that had not been fully punched out on ballot cards.
The U.S. Supreme Court cut off the recount before it could be completed, handing Republican George W. Bush Florida and the presidency by 537 votes over Democrat Al Gore.
Only four of the 18 applicants — including Freeman, the only woman nominated, and Lawson — had not sought one or both of the two previous vacancies Crist filled.