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50 apply for two pending vacancies on state Supreme Court

TALLAHASSEE — Fifty lawyers applied by Friday's deadline to fill two pending vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court.

Half of the applicants are already state circuit and appellate judges. Eight applicants are women. And the list appears to include about a dozen minorities.

Also, one-third of the state's highest profile appellate court, the 15-member First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee, applied.

The applications start a process that will offer a glimpse into how Republican Gov. Charlie Crist hopes to reshape the state's highest court. He is expected to replace four of its seven members before his first term ends.

These applications are to replace Justice Kenneth Bell, 52, and Justice Raoul Cantero, 47, who earlier this year both announced they plan to retire for family reasons. Both were appointees of former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. Crist will have two additional appointments next year as two justices hit the mandatory retirement age.

Among Fridays applicants are high profile attorneys such as Judge Charles Canady, 54, of Lakeland, a circuit court judge who served in the state House and in Congress and was a Republican "manager" for the impeachment trial against former President Bill Clinton.

Frank Ruben Jimenez, 43, also applied, although he is currently serving in Alexandria, Va., as the U.S. Department of Navy's general counsel, which takes a presidential nomination. Jimenez worked for four years under Gov. Jeb Bush and left Florida in 2002.

Judge Clay Roberts, 43, of Tallahassee also applied although he was only recently appointed to the First District Court of Appeals in January 2007. Roberts worked for Crist in the Attorney General's Office, but he is most known for his work as the state's election chief under Secretary of State Katherine Harris during the 2000 presidential recount.

The list included statewide prosecutor George Richards of Cape Coral, state solicitor general Scott Makar and former Rep. Dudley Goodlette of Naples.

The applications now go to the nine-member Judicial Nominating Commission who will forward a list of three to six finalists for each vacant post. Members of the commission include Howard Coker, a former leader of the trial bar; Robert Hackleman, a law partner of Crist's former chief of staff, George LeMieux; and Jason Unger, a longtime Republican activist whose wife, Karen, ran Bush's 2002 re-election campaign.

Many of the justice applications ranged well past 200 pages. Judge Giesela Cardonne Ely, who serves as a circuit judge in Miami, wrote about immigrating to Florida from Cuba at age 11 as an important experience worthy of consideration on her application.

"I recall total silence on the plane to Miami, until the pilot announced that we had crossed into American air space — then everyone burst into applause, laughter and tears of joy," Cardonne Ely wrote.

>>Fast facts

Local judges apply

Six of the 50 applicants for the Florida Supreme Court are from the Tampa Bay area:

• Circuit Judge William Levens of Tampa

• Southwest Florida Water Management District general counsel William S. Bilenky of Inverness

• Circuit Judge Emily Peacock of Tampa

• Circuit Judge Steven Stephens of Tampa

• Circuit Judge Stephen O. Rushing of Brooksville

• Circuit Judge Marva L. Crenshaw of Tampa

On the Web

To see the full list of applicants, visit The Buzz: Florida politics, the Times political blog at:

50 apply for two pending vacancies on state Supreme Court 07/25/08 [Last modified: Saturday, July 26, 2008 2:47pm]
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