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Former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette wants seat on state high court

TALLAHASSEE — Dudley Goodlette had a successful career in the Florida Legislature. His latest assignment was giving legal advice to the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission.

Now the Republican lawyer from Naples wants to be a justice of the Florida Supreme Court, where four of seven justices will leave by the end of 2009.

"I think I would add value to the court, and I'm anxious to convey that," Goodlette said Tuesday as his name circulated among prominent lawyers and supporters of Gov. Charlie Crist, who will make an unprecedented string of court picks.

Goodlette, 60, was known as a diligent and well-prepared lawmaker who got along well with Democrats and Republicans, and was a strong defender of an independent judiciary.

He focused extensively on judicial issues, such as finding a stable long-term funding system for court operations, the workload of the Supreme Court and a program to ensure that low-income people had access to courts.

Unlike most applicants for the court, Goodlette held a partisan political office and has a voting record that reflects his views.

He voted with the Republican House majority on two highly contentious issues struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court: allowing then-Gov. Jeb Bush to override the courts in the Terri Schiavo case in October 2003 and tax-supported school vouchers in April 1999.

It will be weeks, possibly months, before a nine-member Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission accepts applications for the first two lame-duck justices, Raoul Cantero and Kenneth Bell.

But before the commission begins its work, Crist is expected to fill three upcoming vacancies on the nominating panel.

Goodlette, a graduate of the University of Florida law school, has never served as a judge. Four of the seven current justices were judges previously. The other three were practicing lawyers at the time of their appointments.

If Goodlette has a drawback, it could be that he is a white man. All four departing justices are white men (Cantero is Hispanic).

The National Organization for Women has called on Crist to seek qualified women.

Two of the seven justices, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, are women.

Justices earn $161,200 a year. Goodlette reported a net worth of $3.9-million on his financial disclosure statement filed last year.

A native of Hazard, Ky., Goodlette served in the state House from 1998 to 2006, when term limits forced him to return full time to his Naples law practice, which focuses mainly on land use and real estate.

Known for a self-deprecating sense of humor, Goodlette said of full-time lawyering: "I'm not sure that's the highest and best use of the limited talent and skills that I have."

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or

(850) 224-7263.

Former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette wants seat on state high court 06/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2008 3:05pm]
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