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. Video: Loggerhead sea turtle found in Islamorada resident's pool


    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on Monday, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys.

    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on June 22, 2017, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys. [Photo from video]

  2. What Wilson Ramos will mean to the Rays lineup, pitching

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer was stumping for all-star votes for Corey Dickerson during a live interview Wednesday morning on the MLB Network when he lifted the right earpiece on his headset and said, "I hear a buffalo coming."

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos (40) waves to the crowd after being presented with the Silver Slugger Award before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
  3. Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players


    Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

  4. She doesn't care if you accept her, as long as you respect her

    Human Interest

    Mary Jane Taylor finds strength walking quietly among the dead.

    Mary Jane Taylor,18, visits Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa when she is feeling low. "When I hit my low points in life I go the the graveyard," she says. "people are afraid of the graveyard. I love the graveyard." The transgender teen recently graduated from Jefferson High School. She is  enrolled in summer classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville studying international business. She plans to transfer to the University of Florida, attend law school and become a civil rights lawyer. (JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times)
  5. Few new details in state investigation of Tarpon Springs officer-involved shooting of Nick Provenza

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — An investigative report, released this week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, into the officer-involved shooting that killed 25-year-old Nick Provenza included largely the same narrative prosecutors released this month that ruled the shooting a "justifiable homicide."

    Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.