Gov. Charlie Crist appointed UF Law alumnus Jorge Labarga (JD 79) to the Florida Supreme Court on Jan. 2. Labarga of Wellington, Fla., was a state circuit judge who Crist appointed to an appellate court position in December 2008. 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 nominated as a Supreme Court candidate for an earlier opening, but Crist instead appointed Justice Charles Canady, a former Republican congressman and state lawmaker, to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic member, Raoul G. Cantero III.
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 presidential candidate George W. Bush.