The Phoenix Flyer

Gov. DeSantis names another Federalist Society-linked attorney to Supreme Court search panel

By: - November 26, 2019 11:34 am
Florida Supreme Court

Florida Supreme Court. Credit:

The panel conducting the search for two new justices of the Florida Supreme Court has picked up a new, and conservative, member: Harout Samra, who specializes in international arbitration and civil litigation in the Miami office of the DLA Piper law firm.

Gov. Ron DeSantis named Samra to the judicial nominating commission for the Supreme Court on Monday evening – when he ordered the panel to begin soliciting applications to seats vacated by the elevation of former justices Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The commission has 60 days to complete its work, and then the governor has another 60 days to make his picks. A letter written on the governor’s behalf by his general counsel, Joe Jacquot, asks the commission to supply the legal maximum of 12 names.

The panel set a deadline for nominations on Dec. 24 at 6 p.m.

Like the governor himself, Samra is affiliated with the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, the conservative-libertarian organization whose members have a hand in vetting judges both for DeSantis and President Trump, the governor’s political patron. DeSantis has promised to appoint conservative justices who’ll assign greater deference to the Legislature, which Republicans dominate.

Others on the commission who belong to or have participated in programs staged by the Federalist Society are Daniel Nordby, its chairman, a partner at the Shutts Bowen law firm; Jesse Panuccio, a former acting associate attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice and general counsel to then-Gov. Rick Scott; Heather Sterns, a lobbyist and former Scott aide; and Fred Karlinsky, a shareholder in the Tallahassee and Fort Lauderdale offices of the Greenberg Traurig who specializes in insurance regulation and transactions.

Also serving, on recommendations by the Florida Bar, are Cynthia Angelos, a civil litigator and former trial judge in Port St. Lucie; Israel Reyes, a civil litigator and former trial judge in Coral Gables; Hala Sandridge, a shareholder in the Tampa office of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney; and Jeanne T. Tate, a sole practitioner specializing in adoption in the Tampa Bay area. They have no known affiliation with the society.

Each judicial nominating commission (there are six – one for the Supreme Court and others for Florida’s five intermediate appellate districts) comprises nine members, five selected solely by the governor and four recommended by the Bar.

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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.