Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lawyers see political ploy in nomination to high court

TALLAHASSEE — The Judicial Nominating Commission "ran afoul of Florida law" and appeared to bow to political pressure when it nominated Miami lawyer Frank Jimenez for the Florida Supreme Court, a group of high-powered lawyers complained in a strongly worded letter Monday.

Jimenez, a politically connected attorney who currently is the Navy's general counsel, was tapped for the seat Wednesday after a long and contentious commission meeting called in response to Gov. Charlie Crist's request for more diversity in the list of prospective justices.

Amid frequent 5-4 votes, the commission suspended its rules at times as some members questioned what they were doing, as well as Crist's motives.

"We are very concerned that the integrity of the process with respect to the nomination and selection of justices and judges may be tainted in the eyes of the public," said the letter to commission chairman Robert Hackleman.

It was signed by 17 lawyers, including former Florida Bar president Kelly Overstreet-Johnson, two former appellate judges and Miami Republican Sen. Alex Villalobos.

Jimenez's supporters said the questioning of the commission's motives was itself political. Jimenez ran afoul of some Florida Bar members when he worked as a legal counsel for Jeb Bush. Under Bush, the Republican-led Legislature gave the governor more power over the bar in selecting nominating committee members.

Incoming Cuban American Bar Association president Roland Sanchez-Medina Jr. said politics often plays a role in judicial picks.

"I don't think politics played a role in this any more than in any other nomination," he said, calling Jimenez "an excellent candidate and superbly qualified to fill the vacancy on the Florida Supreme Court."

During the Wednesday meeting, Commissioner Arturo Alvarez pointed out that they had sent Crist a list of five nominees that included a Hispanic, Jorge Labarga, whom Crist promptly tapped to fill a Fourth District Court of Appeal seat. Crist then asked for more names, touching off chatter in the legal community that the fix was in for the politically connected Jimenez.

"We should avoid the perception that our choices are influenced by the governor, regardless of his motivations," Alvarez said at one point. "Diversity doesn't mean: 'I want a specific person.' "

Hackleman and others argued that, since there was no Hispanic left to pick from, Crist's request should be respected. Crist said he wished the commission him more names than just Jimenez.

Lawyers see political ploy in nomination to high court 12/22/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 10:28am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. US President Donald Trump, left,  meets with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Monday, in Jerusalem. Trump opened his first visit to Israel Monday, a two-day stop aimed at testing the waters for jumpstarting the dormant Middle East peace process. [AP photo]
  2. Study: Florida most friendly state for retired veterans

    Working Life

    Florida is the nation's best state for military retirees looking for somewhere to settle. That's according to a study released Monday by WalletHub which rated Florida the most friendly when it comes to economic factors, quality of life and health care.

    Veterans watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp in 2016. Florida is the most friendly state for retired veterans according to a new WalletHub study. | LOREN ELLIOTT, Times
  3. Flynn to invoke 5th Amendment, won't hand over documents in Russia probe, source says


    WASHINGTON — Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination as he notifies a Senate panel that he won't hand over documents in the probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

    In this Feb. 13, 2017 file photo, Mike Flynn arrives for a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The former national security adviser will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on Monday. [Associated Press]
  4. Department store chain from Puerto Rico coming to University Mall


    TAMPA — Grand's, a department store chain from Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in September.

    Grand's, a department store chain from n Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in Tampa in September. Coloring rendering of revamped University Mall.
[CBRE Group]
  5. Rubio on Trump: 'People got what they voted for'


    Marco Rubio says people shouldn't be surprised about the drama flowing from the White House.