Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Crist ordered to pick name on judicial nominating list

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist ran afoul of the state Constitution when he refused to fill an appeals court seat because all of the potential picks submitted to him were white, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday.

The high court ruled that Crist must make a judicial selection from the all-white list of six names for the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach that he was given by the judicial nominating commission.

Crist, complaining Dec. 1 that none of "three well-qualified African-Americans" in the original candidate pool were among the finalists, asked the nominating commission to send him more names. But the commission refused.

In a written statement Thursday, Crist said he was disappointed with the ruling but he will comply with it. "I remain committed to ensuring that the diversity of the people of Florida is represented in our judiciary," Crist said.

The court said the Constitution couldn't be ignored.

"While we applaud the governor's interest in achieving diversity in the judiciary — an interest we believe to be genuine and well intentioned — the Constitution does not grant the governor the discretion to refuse or postpone making an appointment to fill the vacancy on the Fifth District Court of Appeal," Justice Jorge Labarga, himself a Crist appointee to the high court, wrote in the decision.

Labarga, a Cuban-American, was a key player in Crist's controversial efforts to bring more diversity to the bench.

Late last year, after a Supreme Court nominating commission forwarded Labarga's name to Crist, the Republican selected him to sit on an appeals court instead. Crist then asked the commission to send him more diverse candidates for the Supreme Court seat. After a contentious late-night phone conference, the commission nominated Frank Jimenez, another Cuban-American and a Navy attorney who had worked for both Jeb and George Bush.

A group of high-powered lawyers protested the process. Some critics said it had become too political. Crist, now a Senate candidate for the 2010 election, denied the charge. He then elevated Labarga to the Supreme Court seat vacated by Raoul Cantero, the state's first Hispanic justice.

The lawsuit that the high court settled Thursday was brought by Robert J. Pleus, the 5th District Court of Appeal justice whose retirement sparked the nominating process.

Pleus was frustrated by Crist's intransigence and was concerned that the appeals court seat would remain empty indefinitely, said the judge's lawyer, Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte. Pleus couldn't be reached.

A former Democratic legislator from Miami, D'Alemberte helped write the legislation and constitutional language in the early 1970s that created the judicial nominating commissions. The goal: make the courts more professional and less political.

"I've never seen a case like this where a governor refused to follow the recommendations of a judicial nominating commission after they've (sent him six names)," said D'Alemberte, a former president of Florida State University and the American Bar Association.

Thursday's opinion comes almost one year after the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Crist acted unconstitutionally in reaching another case concerning a gambling agreement he struck with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Since then, Crist has appointed four of the court's seven justices.

Marc Caputo can be reached at

Crist ordered to pick name on judicial nominating list 07/02/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 4, 2009 12:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pitching on no rest backfires for Erasmo Ramirez, Rays

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — After battling through a 61/2-hour affair Sunday in Minnesota that was the second-longest game in franchise history, Rays officials were quick to decide that even though Erasmo Ramirez had just worked the 15th and final inning, they would stick with him to start Monday's game in Texas.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers, comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  2. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  3. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and similar events, saying they are inappropriate could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  4. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  5. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)