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Crist upset by list for state Supreme Court seats

TALLAHASSEE — The names of seven judges and a private attorney were forwarded to Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday as nominees for two openings on the Florida Supreme Court.

However, the eight candidates' lack of diversity gave the governor pause. The list, nominated by the Judicial Nominating Commission, includes no women or African-Americans.

He has 60 days to appoint two justices, and he can ask the commission for more names, advisors said.

"I've got several concerns about it, so I'm looking at what my options are," Crist said.

Fifty lawyers applied to replace Kenneth Bell, 52, and Raoul Cantero, 47, who both are retiring for family reasons. Both were appointed by Jeb Bush.

Crist will have two more appointments next year as two justices hit the mandatory retirement age, giving him an unprecedented opportunity to reshape the seven-member court.

Among five lawyers nominated for Cantero's at-large seat is 2nd District Court of Appeal Judge Charles Canady, 54, of Lakeland. He was one of 13 members of Congress who ran the impeachment hearings against President Bill Clinton. Canady said his political background shouldn't be an overwhelming factor: "My career is what it is. The most relevant part is my service as a judge."

The four other finalists for Cantero's seat: 11th Circuit Judge Kevin Emas, 50, Miami; 5th District Court of Appeal Judge Vincent G. Torpy Jr., 52, Daytona Beach; 15th Circuit Judge Jorge Labarga, 55, West Palm Beach; and lawyer Edward Guedes, 44, Miami.

The finalists for Bell's seat, who must reside within the 1st District Court of Appeal area, are: 1st DCA Judge Ricky L. Polston, 52, Tallahassee; 1st DCA Judge Peter D. Webster, 59, Tallahassee; and 4th Circuit Judge Waddell A. Wallace, Jacksonville.

Webster and Wallace have been finalists before for the job, which pays $161,200.

The list spurred an immediate buzz in the legal community, with many lawyers quietly noting the lack of female and black nominees. The state Supreme Court is currently made up of five men and two women. Chief Justice Peggy Quince is the only black member.

"It's really terribly disappointing," said Jeanne Baker, president of the state board of the American Civil Liberties Union. "We need a diverse bench to help ensure justice is impartially dispensed overall."

The only Hispanic finalists were Labarga and Guedes, who is also the only registered Democrat. Guedes is known in South Florida legal communities as openly gay, but he was quick to add he doesn't want to be considered based on his ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Commission chairman Robert S. Hackleman countered criticism by noting that only eight women and a dozen minorities were among the applicant pool. He said he couldn't talk about deliberations, which came Wednesday night after three days of interviewing the 50 applicants.

Times researcher Will Short Gorham contributed to this report.

Nominees to fill the at-large seat of Justice Raoul Cantero

Kevin Emas, 50


Judge, 11th Circuit

Married for 25 years, three children

Born in St. Louis; lived in Florida for 38 years

University of Florida; University of Miami Law School

Race/ethnicity: white

Voter registration: no party affiliation

Charles Canady, 54


Judge, 2nd District Court of Appeal; former U.S. representative

Married 11 years, 2 children

Born in Lakeland; lifelong Florida resident

Haverford College, Yale Law School

Race/ethnicity: white

Voter registration: Republican

Edward G. Guedes, 44


Attorney, Greenberg Traurig


Born in Coral Gables; lifelong Florida resident

Amherst College, Harvard Law School

Race/ethnicity: Hispanic

Voter registration: Democrat

Jorge Labarga, 55

West Palm Beach

Judge, 15th Circuit

Married 27 years, 2 children

Born in Havana, Cuba; lived in Florida 45 years

University of Florida for undergraduate and law school

Race/ethnicity: Hispanic

Voter registration: no party affiliation

Vincent G. Torpy Jr., 52

Daytona Beach

Judge, 5th District Court of Appeal

Married 31 years, 3 children

Born in Mount Kisco, N.Y.; lived in Florida 35 years

University of Central Florida, Florida State University Law School

Race/ethnicity: white

Voter registration: Republican

Nominees to fill the First District seat currently held by Justice Kenneth Bell

Ricky L. Polston, 52


Judge, 1st District Court of Appeal

Married for 31 years, 10 children

Born in Dothan, Ala.; lived in Florida 52 years

Florida State University for undergraduate and law school

Race/ethnicity: white

Voter registration: Republican

Waddell A. Wallace III, 55


Judge, 4th Circuit; former finalist for Florida Supreme Court

Married 25 years, 2 children

Born in Jacksonville; lifelong Florida resident

University of Virginia, University of Florida College of Law

Race/ethnicity: white

Voter registration: Republican

Peter D. Webster, 59


Judge, 1st District Court of Appeal; former finalist for Florida Supreme Court

Divorced; remarried for 22 years, 1 child

Born in Framingham, Mass.; lived in Florida 34 years

Georgetown University, Duke University Law School and University of Virginia (master's of law)

Race/ethnicity: white

Voter registration: Republican

Compiled by Times staff writer Jennifer Liberto and Times researcher William Short Gorham

Crist upset by list for state Supreme Court seats

08/14/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 21, 2008 2:56pm]
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