Five of seven Florida Supreme Court Justices and six judges for the 5th District Court of Appeal are on the ballot this Nov. 8.
Florida Supreme Court Justices seeking retention on the State’s High Court include Justices Charles T. Canady, John D. Couriel, Jamie Grosshans, Jorge Labarga and Ricky Polston.
Appointed by then- Gov. Charlie Crist, Polston became a Florida Supreme Court Justice in 2008. He served a two-year term as the court’s Chief Justice from 2012 to 2014.
Labarga was appointed to the court in 2009 also by Gov. Charlie Crist.
Grosshans was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in 2020 by Governor Ron DeSantis. She was previously appointed Fifth District Court of Appeals in 2018 by then-Gov. Rick Scott.
Couriel was appointed to the High Court in 2020 by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Canady was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008 and served as Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court from 2010 to 2012. Beginning in 2018 he was reelected to that post for a second time and was re-elected to that post beginning on July 1, 2020.
In January 2020, Canady and Polston were part of a majority decision concerning the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative. That ballot initiative passed by voters in 2018 automatically restores the right to vote for Floridians with prior felony convictions when their sentence is completed. It did not include those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.
Later, a 2019 law was passed requiring payment of “all fines and fees associated with their sentence” before voting rights would be restored.
The majority decision ruled that the average voter would have interpreted the words “all terms of sentence” to include fines and fees (LFOs).
Labarga was the sole dissenter in the case on grounds that he did not agree with how the majority came to their decision.
LaBaraga was also the lone dissenter in a 2022 case involving placing on the ballot an amendment that would have legalized marijuana for personal use for adults over 21 and would have allowed dispensaries to sell marijuana to adults.
In their majority opinion, Polson, Canady, Couriel, and Grosshans along with Chief Justice Carlos G. Muniz ruled that the wording of the proposed amendment’s summary was too misleading to be on the 2022 ballot.
LaBaraga dissented without a written explanation.
Meanwhile, Judge Jay Cohen is seeking to be retained to his post in the 5th District Court of Appeals.
Appointed to the Appeals Court in 2008, Cohen served as that court’s Chief Judge from January 2017 through December 2018.
In February 2020 he participated in a unanimous decision that reversed a lower court’s order to dismiss charges of sending written threats to kill or do bodily injury to a child. The ruling allowed the State of Florida to charge Blake Michael Cowart with sending written threats including a photo of a scoped AR-15 rifle via Snapchat to kill or do bodily injury to a child.
Judges James A. Edwards, Brian D. Lambert, Mary Nardella, Dan Traver and Carrie Ann Wozniak are also seeking retention to the appellate court.
Edwards was appointed by then-Gov. Rick Scott to fill a position created by the 2014 Florida Legislature.
In February 2017 he was part of a majority decision that reversed a conviction for lewd or lascivious molestation in the case of Marco Antonio Rodriguez vs. State of Florida. In 2015, Rodriguez was convicted of sexually molesting a 5-year-old girl. He was found guilty on 2 counts of lewd and lascivious molestation, and not-guilty on one of the counts. The trial’s Prosecutor does not appear to have been reprimanded by the Florida Bar.
As a result of the Appellate Court decision, that case was sent back to the lower courts for a new trial. The decision also referred the case to the Florida Bar for possible disciplinary action against the Assistant State Attorney in the case.
Lambert was appointed to 5th District Court of Appeals in 2014 by Gov. Rick Scott.
In May 2020 medical negligence case Rockledge HMA, LLC, et al. vs. Michael S. Lawley, et al. Lambert was part of a unanimous decision that determined that a lower court should have dismissed the negligence case instead of allowing it to proceed on grounds that the claim represented in the case centered on a medical judgment of Lawley’s condition, required a medical expert’s opinion, and should have been be considered medical-malpractice, not simple negligence.
Nardella was appointed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021.
In a June 2022 case involving Kevin Patrick Kelley, Jr. vs. the State of Florida pertaining to child neglect Nardella was part of a majority ruling that reversed the trial court conviction of neglect of a child on grounds that the adult’s behavior did not reach the “egregious level of conduct” necessary to show culpable negligence.”
Judge Dan Traver, who was appointed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal in 2019 by Gov. Ron DeSantis. also participated in that majority ruling.
Wozniak was also named to the court by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021.
In February 2022 Wozniak participated in a majority decision pertaining to a case involving a whistleblower employed by a staffing company who claimed to be fired after finding and subsequently reporting billing discrepancies for Medicare/Medicaid patients.
In that decision, the staffing company was not a private employer and was not subject to the Florida Private Whistle-blower Act.