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U.S. Senate confirms John Badalamenti as Tampa’s next federal judge

President Donald Trump last year nominated Badalamenti, a judge of Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal, to fill a vacancy on the federal bench.

The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed John L. Badalamenti as Tampa’s next federal judge.

Badalamenti, who has been a judge on Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal since 2015, was confirmed by a vote of 55 to 22 to join the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. President Donald Trump nominated Badalamenti to the federal bench late last year. The district covers 35 counties stretching from Naples to Jacksonville.

He fills the vacancy left by Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich, who was appointed to the court in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan and served for more than 35 years. She retired to senior status in late 2018.

Badalamenti’s nomination was without much fanfare or controversy, though some Senate Democrats voted against him. Like many other Trump appointees, Badalamenti is a member of the Federalist Society, a legal organization generally regarded as advocating for a conservative or libertarian approach to the law. He was asked about his membership in written inquiries from senators, who also questioned him about his judicial philosophy.

Badalamenti wrote that he ascribes to an originalist approach to interpreting laws and the Constitution, a judicial philosophy often viewed as conservative and defined as applying the plain meaning of the law.

As an appellate judge, one of Badalamenti’s most notable cases had to do with a lawsuit in which a group of Fort Myers-area homeowners demanded compensation after the state destroyed thousands of their citrus trees in an effort to eradicate the spread of citrus canker disease. He joined an opinion with two other judges, ruling in favor of the homeowners.

Before that, he worked as a federal public defender in Tampa, representing criminal defendants who were unable to afford their own lawyers.

One of his cases made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, known as Yates vs. United States, involved a fisherman who was accused of destroying evidence by tossing a bunch of fish into the sea which authorities had determined were underweight.

Badalamenti represented the fisherman. In arguing his case, he later told the Tampa Bay Times, he tried to stay close to the language of the applicable law, a strategy geared toward the originalist philosophy championed by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Although ultimately Scalia sided against the fisherman, he was critical of the government, and a plurality of the high court ruled in the fisherman’s favor.

Badalamenti was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1973. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology and law in 1995 from the University of Florida. He later earned a master’s in sociology and a law degree from UF in 1999.

As a young lawyer, he served as counsel to the federal Bureau of Prisons in Atlanta. He worked as a law clerk for judges Frank Mays Hull and later Paul H. Roney, both of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. He also worked in private practice with the firm of Carlton Fields.

Badalamenti is the fourth judge Trump has appointed to the Middle District bench.

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