Crist wants minority on judicial recommendation list

By John O'Brien | Dec 4, 2008


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, the state's former attorney general, has rejected a list of candidates to fill a spot on the bench of a state appellate court.

Crist rejected a list of six white individuals selected by the Fifth Appellate District Judicial Nominating Commission, according to They are vying for the spot soon to be vacated by retiring Judge Robert Pleus Jr.

"Florida's diversity has been instrumental in the economic and cultural strength of our state, and that diversity should be reflected in every facet of our state's government, including our judicial system," Crist said in a written statement, the report says.

"I remain committed to appointing to the bench well-qualified individuals who reflect the people of Florida."

Crist, a Republican, served as attorney general from 2003-07 and was succeeded by Bill McCollum.

He recently made two appointments to the state Supreme Court, former Second District Court of Appeals Judge Charles Canady and former First District Court of Appeals Judge Ricky Polston.

He will have another Supreme Court decision to make before Justice Charles Wells retires in March 2009.

His decision to reject the list is reminiscent of one made by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2007 that led to a complaint that white applicants were being discriminated against.

In April 2007, the Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission selected three candidates from a field of 16 to submit to Bredesen. Those chosen were Circuit Judge D'Army Bailey of Memphis, former Court of Appeals Judge William Koch of Nashville and Circuit Judge C. Creed McGinley of Savannah

It was the third group of three sent to Bredesen. Bailey was on the previous panel, which Bredesen rejected because it also included George Lewis and Houston Gordon, two men who were rejected by Bredesen from the first panel.

They were rejected from that panel because it did not feature a black candidate, on which Bredesen insisted. Richard Dinkins, the original third candidate and an African-American, withdrew for family reasons and Bredesen requested another group.

The second panel that was submitted featured Gordon and Lewis and added Bailey, who is black. However, Bredesen refused the list, claiming candidates who were already rejected (Lewis and Gordon) could not be resubmitted.

Lewis and Gordon argued that Bredesen's refusal to allow them to be considered on a second three-person panel of candidates after the first one was refused violated the Tennessee Human Rights Act.

The Tennessee Supreme Court sided with Bredesen and said Gordon and Lewis could not apply for the job again.

Koch was eventually picked by Bredesen.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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