Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

Upcoming judicial pick by Gov. Rick Scott turns political

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 [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch had won nine straight heading into Friday’s game against Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental lea...
Published: 12/16/17

High school scoreboard for Dec. 15

Friday’s scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 7, Clearwater 0Osceola 9, Bradenton Bayshore 0Palm Harbor U. 2, Plant 1Boys soccerPalm Harbor U. 0, Plant 0Lennard 4, Armwood 1
Updated: 9 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Fri., Dec. 15, midday:01 563 0000e_SRit95765Fri., Dec. 15, evening:12 287 1492e_SRit04851Fantasy 5Fri., Dec. 15...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Gators play Nebraska, still seeking elusive volleyball title

Gators play Nebraska, still seeking elusive volleyball title

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There is very little these days that can dampen the mood of Florida volleyball coach Mary Wise, whose Gators knocked off reigning national champion Stanford in Thursday’s NCAA semifinals and face Nebraska tonight for the title. Not...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

LARGO — A Pinellas sheriff’s child protective investigator has been fired and could face criminal charges after an investigation found she made a child custody recommendation to a judge as a favor to a friend.Jayne Johnson, who has worked for the She...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Festivus 2017: Send us your best grievances

Festivus 2017: Send us your best grievances

Here's your chance. Tell us what annoyed you in 2017, and we'll share it with our readers.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

A federal judge Friday said a bail package has been put together that would release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from home confinement in his condominium in Virginia and allow him to reside at his house in Palm Beach Gardens, but unde...
Updated: 12 hours ago