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MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) – Fresh off his inauguration day, Governor Ron DeSantis announced his first appointment to the state’s Supreme Court at Miami’s Freedom Tower.

“Today it is my honor and privilege to announce that I’m going to appoint Judge Barbara Lagoa to the Florida Supreme Court,” said DeSantis.

Watch The Governor’s Announcement In The Video Below

 

“I am deeply honored and humbled. I am particularly humbled because of where we stand today – the Freedom Tower. Over 50 years ago my parents, like so many others, came into this country from Cuba to start rebuilding their lives in a land that offered them opportunity but more importantly freedom,” said Lagoa.

Lagoa was born in Miami and grew up in Hialeah. She received her Bachelor of the Arts cum laude in 1989 from Florida International University.

Lagoa received her law degree from Columbia University in 1992, where she served as an Associate Editor of the Columbia Law Review. |

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush named Lagoa to the Miami-based 3rd District Court of Appeal in 2006, and she has recently served as the court’s chief judge. Over her 12 years on the appellate bench, Justice Lagoa has heard more than 11,000 cases and issued more than 470 written opinions.

Lagoa will be the first Cuban-American female to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.

In addition to her legal bona fides, Lagoa has a “great personal history,” DeSantis said, pointing to the location of Wednesday’s announcement, the Freedom Tower in Miami, as symbolic of his choice.

“I thought it was fitting, given that her parents came to Florida as Cuban exiles,” DeSantis, 40, said. “She understands the rule of law, how important that is to a society.”

Because of Lagoa’s family’s history, “she understands that, in Cuba, the rule of law doesn’t mean anything,” DeSantis said.

“The Cuban people do not know what laws apply to them or whether they will receive a fair trial after arbitrarily being accused of political crimes,” he said.

Watch Justice Barbara Lagoa Comments In The Video Below

 

“The Florida Supreme Court is tasked with the protection of people’s liberties under law. And in that regard I am particularly mindful of the fact that under our Constitutional system it is for the legislature, and not the courts, to make the law. It is the role of judges to apply, not to alter, the work of the people’s representatives. And it is the role of judges to interpret our Constitution and statutes as written,” said Lagoa.

DeSantis’ selection of Lagoa was the first of three Supreme Court appointments the new governor will make, following the mandatory retirement of three justices who comprised what had been the court’s more liberal-leaning bloc.

Lagoa’s addition will cement a conservative majority that will include Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Alan Lawson and Ricky Polston, all of whom Lagoa cited as references in her application for the post. It also will keep DeSantis’ pledge to purge the Supreme Court of “activist” jurists.

Lagoa contrasted the experiences of people in her parents’ homeland with those of people in their adopted country and indicated that helped shape her legal views.

“In the country, my parents fled, the whim of a single individual could mean the difference between food or hunger, liberty or prison, life or death. In our great country and our great state, we are governed by the rule of law, the consistent and equal application of the law to all litigations regardless of a judge’s personal preferences,” she said. “Unlike the country my parents fled, we are a nation of laws, not of men.”

DeSantis’ replacements for the three justices who were required to retire this week — R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince — will reshape a court that for years has been a thorn in the side to the Republican-dominated Legislature and former Gov. Rick Scott.

Over the past decade, the court overturned a number of policies important to GOP leaders, wrangled with lawmakers over congressional and Senate maps and, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, ordered the Legislature to require unanimous jury recommendations for the death penalty to be imposed.

During his inaugural speech Tuesday, DeSantis blasted the court for expanding its powers “beyond constitutional bounds” and substituting “legislative will for dispassionate legal judgment.”

“To my fellow Floridians, I say to you: judicial activism ends, right here and right now,” DeSantis said during the speech. “I will only appoint judges who understand the proper role of the courts is to apply the law and Constitution as written, not to legislate from the bench. The Constitution, not the judiciary, is supreme.”

Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who played a major role in drafting legislative districts rejected by the Supreme Court, echoed DeSantis’ critique of the court while praising the governor’s choice.

“I share the governor’s concern that in recent years the power of the judicial branch has extended beyond its limited constitutional responsibility, in many cases eroding the authority of the legislative branch. I believe democracy is at its best when each branch of government exercises both authority and restraint at the appropriate time. That concept was certainly at the heart of … many of the comments we heard from the governor yesterday, and echoed again this morning with the appointment of Justice Lagoa,” Galvano said in a statement Wednesday.

Lagoa’s selection also drew praise from the business-backed Florida Justice Reform Institute, which, in a statement, called DeSantis’ appointment “the first step towards fulfilling his promise to appoint judges who will interpret the law and not legislate from the bench.”

Lagoa will serve as a role model to young women, said DeSantis, who was also accompanied by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez on Wednesday.

The governor recalled that, when he announced Nuñez as his running-mate last year, he said “Jeanette’s life, what she’s done, was really an inspiration to a lot of young women.”

“I think the same of Barbara,” he said Wednesday. “I think people look at what she’s done, as a professional, as a wife, as a mother. This is really the way it should be done. I’m really excited about being able to put her on the court.”

(©2019 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam contributed to this report.)

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