Crist names Labarga to Florida Supreme Court

Published: January 12th, 2009

Category: News

Gov. Charlie Crist appointed UF Law alumnus Jorge Labarga to the Florida Supreme Court on Jan. 2.

Labarga (JD 79), of Wellington, Fla., was a state circuit judge who Crist appointed to an appellate court position just last month. He was named to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Harry Lee Anstead.

A Cuban-born lawyer and double Gator, Labarga has been a circuit judge since 1996 and was a public defender and prosecutor before that in a legal career that has spanned 28 years.

“It is a great honor to serve the people of Florida in a position that will have lasting impact on our judicial system and on society,” Labarga told the Associated Press.

Labarga was initially nominated as a Supreme Court candidate a few weeks ago, but Crist instead appointed Justice Charles Canady, a former Republican congressman and state lawmaker, to fill the spot created earlier this year by the resignation of the Supreme Court’s only Hispanic member.

After complaints that Crist had politicized the nominating process, the governor reinstated Labarga as a nominee. Other nominees included Frank Jiminez, who worked for former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and for U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.; 5th District Court of Appeal Judge C. Alan Lawson of Daytona Beach; and circuit judges Kevin Emas of Miami, Waddell Wallace III of Jacksonville and Gill Freeman of Miami.

Labarga played a role during Florida’s historic 2000 presidential recount, ruling Palm Beach County elections officials could not necessarily disregard irregular chads that had not been fully punched out on ballot cards.

The U.S. Supreme Court terminated the recount before it could be completed, giving the Florida vote to Republican George W. Bush.

Governor Makes Interim Appointment to District 4 Seat

Charlie Crist appointed UF Law alumnus Phil Mays (JD 91) of Ponte Vedra to fill the St. Johns County District 4 Board of County Commissioners seat that has been open since Oct. 17, when Crist removed Commissioner Thomas Manuel from office.

Mays will serve for the duration of the suspension. He will take the oath of office before the next board meeting Jan. 6.

Mays is the principal owner of Mays Equities Inc., and before that worked as legal counsel in both corporate positions and law firms. He is a member of The Florida Bar and The Georgia Bar.

Mays also serves on the Ponte Vedra Coalition and the West Augustine Community Redevelopment Area Advisory Board.

“My desire to serve the citizens of St. Johns County through this appointment to the St. Johns County Commission is sincere,” Mays said in a statement announcing the appointment.

“As a member of the business community, I am determined to see a strong surge in economic opportunities for our work force.”