Conservative Carlos Muñiz is Gov. Ron DeSantis' third and final choice to replace the three justices who have mandatorily retired on the Florida Supreme Court.
DeSantis, with Lt. Gov Jeanette Nuñez and the Muñiz family at his side, made the announcement during a Tuesday morning press conference on the doorstep of the Governor's Mansion.
In his remarks, DeSantis said, “The court is going to apply the law as written. You may not agree with every decision, but (the justices) are not going to go off on a major tangent. I think that is very good for us. I think that the separation of powers will be strengthened with the newly constituted court.”
“The role of a judge is to preserve the Constitution, not to add to it or subtract from it,” Muniz said. “I believe strongly in judicial independence, but judges have to earn that independence through their fidelity to the Constitution.”
Muñiz, 49, has been called an intellectual and a textualist who believes firmly in the rule of law.
He was the general counsel for the United States Department of Education. Prior to his appointment, he was employed by McGuireWoods.
He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and his Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. He clerked for José A. Cabranes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Thomas Aquinas Flannery of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Muñiz served as deputy attorney general and chief of staff to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and deputy general counsel for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and was said to "demonstrate his commitment to judicial restraint" during that time. He was also deputy chief of staff and counsel in the office of the speaker of the Florida House, and general counsel of the Florida Department of Financial Services. In 2013, Muñiz was involved in the discussions with Bondi that led her to take no action on consumer complaints against Trump University.
He represented Florida State University against a student who accused its quarterback, Jameis Winston, of raping her. The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights investigation into the matter remained open at the time of his nomination.
In response to DeSantis' appointment, William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, said, "Gov. DeSantis' appointment of Carlos Muñiz as the 89th justice to the Florida Supreme Court marks a turning point for jurisprudence in Florida. ...
"Mr. Muñiz's appointment, along with the recent appointments of Justices (Barbara) Lagoa and (Robert) Luck, closes the books on the previous majority's record of judicial activism."
Concluded Large, "Long after Ron DeSantis completes his service as governor of the State of Florida, his first accomplishment -- restoring the Supreme Court to its proper role -- will continue to reverberate."
Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo responded by bemoaning racial exclusion on the high court.
“It's extremely concerning that for the first time in decades Florida will not have have an African American justice," she said. "From (the Muñiz) appointment, it's clear that Ron DeSantis has no respect for the rule of the law, and is seeking to stack the courts with his political allies. Carlos Muñiz has no judicial experience, instead comes with a long political resume that includes working for Betsy DeVos' Department of Education and Pam Bondi's Attorney General office. ... Fortunately, we live in a country of law and Florida Democrats will take every step necessary to defend the rights of every Floridian."
Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, released this statement following DeSantis' announcement:
“I am pleased to offer my congratulations to my friend Carlos. Today’s appointment to the Florida Supreme Court is certainly the culmination of his lengthy and distinguished career in public service. I had the opportunity to work closely with Carlos during my service as Rules Chair in the Florida House. I know him to be a brilliant attorney and dedicated family man who will serve our state with great distinction in this important role.
“I appreciated Carlos’ comments today on the importance of restrained government, the rule of law, and respect for the value and dignity of each person. I also applaud his comments on the importance of judicial independence and the commitment each judge must make to set aside personal policy preferences. I commend Governor DeSantis on another outstanding appointment to the Florida Supreme Court.”
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