The Phoenix Flyer

FL Bar members give high marks to Carlos Muñiz, other appeals judges up for merit retention

By: - September 18, 2020 11:57 am

Gov. Ron DeSantis at Jan. 22 press conference in Tallahassee, with newly appointed Florida Supreme Court justice Carlos Muniz. Julie Hauserman photo.

Florida attorneys expressed confidence in appellate judges subject to merit-retention votes on Nov. 3, including Florida Supreme Court Justice Carlos Muñiz, appointed to the state’s highest court by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year, in a poll of its members by The Florida Bar.

Seventy-one percent favored retaining Muñiz, while judges serving on Florida’s five district courts of appeal pulled support in the 71 percent to 90 percent range, the Bar said.

“The Florida Bar offers the merit retention poll to voters to help them assess jurists on the ballot,” Florida Bar President Dori Foster-Morales said.

“While voters may be familiar with the circuit and county court judges and judicial candidates in their area, the work of these appeals judges is generally not as well known. So we ask Florida Bar members who know them best to give their opinion.”

The organization mailed 78,405 ballots in August to lawyers living and practicing within the state, asking them to consider eight factors: quality and clarity of legal opinions; knowledge of the law, integrity, temperament, impartiality, freedom from prejudice, demeanor, and courtesy.

Only 3,626 responded, and the Bar included results from those professing considerable or limited knowledge of the judges only.

Before DeSantis appointed him, Muñiz served as general counsel to the U.S. Department of Education and had an extensive background in state government, including in the Attorney General’s Office under Pam Bondi.

Florida adopted the merit appointment and retention systems for appellate judges during the 1970s, following scandals involving members of the Supreme Court. No longer did they stand for election; judicial nominating commissions were created to screen aspiring judges and justices for appointment by the governor. They serve six year terms and then the voters get a chance either to retain or remove them.

Muñiz is up now, as the Bar explains on its merit retention website, because “newly appointed judges go on the ballot for the first time within two years after appointment.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.

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