Do you Know your Florida Supreme Court Justices?
Few cases end up in the Florida Supreme Court, and most Floridians, it is safe to say, will never have the pleasure of meeting the men and women who sit as Florida Supreme Court justices. Still, the lives of the state’s citizens are affected every day, in ways large and small, by decisions rendered by the state’s highest court. The Justices serving on the Florida Supreme Court carry out the heavy calling of interpreting the Florida Constitution and ensuring that cases brought before them are decided fairly. The current court is made up of seven diverse individuals, each with an impressive background of service and excellence.
On June 30, 2014, Chief Justice Labarga became the Florida Supreme Court’s first Hispanic Chief Justice. Born in Cuba, he came to Florida at the age of 11, eventually earning his law degree at the University of Florida. Before his appointment to the high bench, he worked as a public defender, a state prosecutor, and a private litigator handling personal injury and criminal defense cases. He’s been on the bench since 1996, first as a Circuit Court judge and then on the Fourth District Court of Appeals, before his 2009 appointment to the Florida Supreme Court.
Justice Pariente hails from New York but has been a Floridian for over forty years. After graduating fifth in her class from George Washington University Law School in 1973, she worked as a judicial clerk in the Southern District of Florida, and then practiced in West Palm Beach, specializing in civil trial litigation. She has a history of service within the bar and her local community and has been recognized nationally for excellence in legal practice. She was an appellate judge for four years before being appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in 1997, where she served as Chief Justice from 2004-2006. Justice Pariente has worked hard for the last decade to improve how the court system works with families and children.
Like his colleagues, Justice Lewis is a decorated justice, having earned awards for excellence while routinely serving in leadership positions. He graduated third in his class from the University of Miami Law School in 1972 before completing the United States Army AG school at the top of his class. He finally entered private practice after his military discharge, working in civil trial and appellate litigation. He was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in 1999 and has also served a term as Chief Justice. In 2002, the University of Central Florida created the Justice R. Fred Lewis Award, given annually to an individual demonstrating the highest level of social responsibility.
Justice Quince’s stellar career has earned her numerous recognitions ranging from public service awards to lifetime achievement awards. She received her JD from the Catholic University of America in 1975 and has received two honorary doctor of laws degrees. She began her legal career in Washington, D.C. and Virginia, moving to Florida in 1978. For more than thirteen years, she worked as an assistant attorney general in the criminal division of the Florida Attorney General’s office, where she handled appeals and death penalty cases and worked five years as the Tampa Bureau Chief. In 1993, she became the first African-American woman to be appointed to a district court of appeal, and was thereafter appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in 1998, the first African-American woman to hold that honorable seat.
Justice Canady received his law degree from Yale Law School in 1979 before entering private practice in Florida. From 1984 through 2001, Justice Canady served three terms in the Florida House of Representatives and four terms in the United States House of Representatives. While in Washington, Justice Canady was a member of the House Judiciary Committee and served three terms as Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. After leaving Congress, he served as General Counsel to Governor Jeb Bush before being appointed to the Second District Court of Appeal in 2002. He was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in 2008 and served as Chief Justice from July 2010 through June 2012.
From Graceville, Florida, Justice Polston started his professional life as a CPA, after earning his license in 1978. He graduated from Florida State University College of Law with high honors in 1986 and entered private law practice in 1987. He was appointed to the First District Court of Appeal in 2001 and has served as an Adjunct Law Professor at Florida State University since 2003. Justice Polston was appointed to the Florida State Supreme Court in 2008. Like the other Justices, Justice Polston can boast several awards, both from school and from his excellence in law practice. He is the father of ten, including six adopted siblings.
Justice Perry earned his law degree from Columbia Law School in 1972, after serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. While his work in private practice specializing in civil and business law is remarkable, much of his time has also been dedicated to improving the lives of children in his community. He founded the Jackie Robinson Sports Association, a baseball league serving hundreds of at-risk children. In 2000, he became the first African-American appointed to the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, serving as Circuit Chief Judge from 2003-2005. He was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in 2009.
As citizens and attorneys, we at Wagner McLaughlin respect these wise jurists and support them as they navigate the difficulties of such important positions.
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