18 interview for Florida Supreme Court vacancy
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12/08/08 Seán Kinane
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Frank Jimenez (left) being interviewed by Judicial Nominating Commission


photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

During his first two years in office, Gov. Charlie Crist has already appointed two members of the Florida Supreme Court. Within the next several months, he will appoint two more justices to the seven-member court.

The first position belongs to Justice Harry Lee Anstead, who is forced to retire due to the Court’s mandatory retirement age of 70.

All 18 candidates for the position were interviewed Monday at the Tampa International Airport Marriott.

One of the candidates vying for the vacant position is Frank Jimenez, who was also a candidate in the August process that produced new Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston. Jimenez currently serves as general counsel of the U.S. Department of the Navy, a political appointment that will end when the Bush administration leaves office in January. Jimenez said he was the architect of every aspect of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court on whether the Navy could use sonar even though it injures whales and other wildlife, a case the Navy won last month.

After the interviews in August, eight candidates were recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission to Gov. Crist for the two positions. Of the six who made the short list, but were not selected, several re-applied for the new vacancy. That includes Waddell Wallace, a circuit court judge from Jacksonville, who told the commission the kind of Supreme Court Justice he aspires to be. "I'll be open and fair," he said.

Perry Adair, an applicant who is an attorney, said the best candidate should be recommended for the position, regardless of ideology.

Scott Fingerhut, another attorney who is applying for the Supreme Court position, argued that ideology should be a factor in considering who will replace Anstead, “He’s the last liberal lion on the court, and he’s going," Fingerhut said.

Tallahassee Judge Nikki Ann Clark said she considers herself a textualist and is reading a book by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. A judge has to follow the law in sentencing even, Clark said, when her conscience leads her in another direction, such as when a 14-year-old was found guilty of murder.

On Monday evening, the nine-member Judicial Nominating Commission will choose between three and six of the 18 applicants and submit the list to the governor who will select one person for the open seat on the. In March, when Justice Charles Wells is forced to retire because of age limits, the commission will open the application process again.

WMNF’s coverage of the August Supreme Court interviews

Crist's first two appointees were interviewed in August.

Florida Supreme Court

Mandatory retirement age of justices

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