6 finalists named for Florida Supreme Court seat, including Tampa Bay names

Among the finalists is Judge Jared Smith, who was previously ousted by Hillsborough County voters after a controversial ruling in an abortion case.
The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee.
The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee. [ Times (2019) ]
Published May 5, 2023|Updated May 5, 2023

Four appellate judges and two circuit judges are finalists to replace former Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston, according to a list of candidates sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis by a state nominating commission.

Four judges serving on the 6th District Court of Appeal — Chief Judge Meredith Sasso and Judges Joshua Mize, Jared Smith and John Stargel — are among the finalists selected by the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Thomas Palermo and 20th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Thomas McHugh also made the cut from a pool of 15 applicants, a notice distributed Friday by nominating commission Chairperson Fred Karlinsky said.

The 20th Judicial Circuit is made up of five Southwest Florida counties.

Three candidates applied before an initial April 3 deadline to replace Polston, who left the Supreme Court in March and was named general counsel of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. The nominating commission extended the application deadline to April 18 and interviewed 15 applicants this week.

Two of the initial applicants — Sasso and Palermo — are on the list of finalists submitted to DeSantis, who will make the appointment to the seven-member Supreme Court.

The Republican governor has appointed four of the current justices — Chief Justice Carlos Muniz and Justices John Couriel, Jamie Grosshans and Renatha Francis.