Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Upcoming judicial pick by Gov. Rick Scott turns political

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Gov. Rick Scott often says he'll appoint judges to the Florida courts who think like him. That's what a court watchdog group is worried about.

Democracy at Stake formed last fall to fight a Republican effort to block the retention of three state Supreme Court justices. The GOP effort flopped, and Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince all won new six-year terms.

Scott will soon be presented with an important appointment on the 4th District Court of Appeal in Broward and Palm Beach counties and the Treasure Coast, a vacancy created by the resignation of Pariente's husband, Fred Hazouri.

The judicial nominating commission for the 4th DCA has nine members, six of them appointed by Scott. One is a Republican national committeeman and three others have made campaign contributions to lots of Republican candidates.

There's nothing surprising about that. Every governor reshapes judicial nominating panels to his political liking, and Scott is no different from his predecessors.

The Scott-friendly JNC sent six names to Scott's general counsel, Peter Antonacci. By the end of this week, Antonacci and his staff are expected to send three names to Scott, who will personally interview the finalists and select one.

Four of the six finalists have significant experience as judges (Peter Blanc, Glenn Kelly, Janis Brustares Keyser and Krista Marx). A fifth finalist, Mark Klingensmith, was appointed to a circuit judgeship by Scott a year and a half ago and before that was very active in Republican politics in Martin County.

The sixth finalist, Alan Orantes Forst, is an attorney and chairman of a state agency, the Florida Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission. Forst, 53, of Palm City, included in his application a section he labeled "Conservative Credentials." It was only one paragraph in a 108-page application, but it definitely got people's attention.

A few highlights: He was a college Republican and a Ford-Dole volunteer, worked for a pro-Ronald Reagan political action committee, and got a job in President Reagan's Justice Department, where his duties included being a liaison between the agency and Clarence Thomas, who then was chairman at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Contacted Monday, Forst declined to comment.

Two other judges with extensive judicial experience, John Murphy and Carol Lisa Phillips, were not on the list that went to Tallahassee, and Democracy at Stake saw the hand of partisan politics at work.

"The JNC, dominated by a majority of partisan gubernatorial appointees, chose to include applicants with little or no judicial experience, while passing over applicants with years of demonstrated ability serving on the trial court bench," Democracy at Stake said. Its president is Alex Villalobos, a Miami lawyer and a former Republican state senator.

In a meeting with black legislators several weeks ago, Scott was firm in his opposition to appointing activist judges.

If Forst makes the cut and Scott appoints him, it won't be the first time. The governor last year put Forst on the judicial nominating commission for the 19th Judicial Circuit on the Treasure Coast.

That, too, was on Forst's application, right above where it said "Conservative Credentials."

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Upcoming judicial pick by Gov. Rick Scott turns political 03/04/13 [Last modified: Monday, March 4, 2013 7:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash

    Accidents

    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators

    National

    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.