Barbara Lagoa, Cuban American choose, rises on Trump’s Supreme Courtroom listing as allies emphasize Florida marketing campaign edge


The swift ascension of the 11th Circuit Courtroom of Appeals choose to severe consideration by members of Trump’s staff, together with Amy Coney Barrett of the seventh Circuit and several other others, displays the blunt political calculations informing the White Home’s decision-making 45 days from an election that would activate the result in Florida, which has by no means despatched a justice to the nation’s highest court docket. The president, going through a good race within the state, whose electoral school votes are seen as important for his path to reelection, is intensifying his courtship of Hispanics, particularly the closely Republican Cuban American group in South Florida.

Inside 48 hours of Ginsburg’s demise, a push for Lagoa, 52, has taken form within the battleground state, drawing on years of goodwill she and her husband have inbuilt Florida’s authorized and political circles and their in depth ties with the Federalist Society, the influential conservative authorized group.

Advocates for Lagoa despatched textual content messages and positioned calls over the weekend to officers within the White Home and the Justice Division, in addition to outstanding attorneys who’ve sway with Trump’s high aides, in line with a number of folks with information of the discussions.

“She is a Cuban lady from Miami, and Florida is a very powerful state within the election,” mentioned Jesse Panuccio, former appearing affiliate legal professional common in Trump’s Justice Division and a member of the Florida Supreme Courtroom Judicial Nominating Fee, which vetted her earlier than Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) named her to the state’s high court docket in January 2019.

An effort to put in a second Latina on the excessive court docket would instantly elevate the stakes of a nomination combat that rapidly turned a conflict over rules of equity and democratic legitimacy. Republicans are looking for to maneuver forward with a variety course of in opposition to the usual they set in 2016, after they blocked President Barack Obama from filling a seat in an election 12 months. Selecting Lagoa would characterize a bid to refocus consideration on a possible nominee’s private story and political enchantment fairly than the legitimacy of the method.

Nonetheless, Lagoa’s 14-year tenure as a state and federal choose presents Democrats with alternatives to scrutinize her document.

Notably contentious could possibly be her document on voting rights and government energy. Lagoa concurred this month in a federal appeals court docket ruling that’s anticipated to maintain most of the 85,000 felons who’ve registered to vote in Florida from casting ballots. Lagoa’s function within the case has prompted backlash from Senate Democrats, who despatched her a letter this summer season alleging that her failure to recuse herself “seems to violate the Code of Conduct for United States Judges” given her function final 12 months in an advisory opinion handed down on the difficulty by the Florida Supreme Courtroom.

On Florida’s excessive court docket, and earlier than that, on a state appeals court docket, she repeatedly sided with companies, serving to to show again the next minimal wage in Miami, limiting recourse for owners going through foreclosures, and reversing or rejecting circumstances of workers who sued Caterpillar and Uber. Lagoa additionally wrote a controversial choice discovering that DeSantis had broad government authority to droop a county sheriff over his dealing with of the 2018 capturing in Parkland, Fla.

And whereas the choose has not expounded at size on abortion and its authorized limits — saying in written solutions submitted to the Senate final 12 months that she would “faithfully apply . . . precedents” when it got here to Roe v. Wade — considered one of her primary advocates, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), mentioned she is “very pro-life, reliably pro-life.”

“The hardcore Catholics often keep on with us,” the congressman added. “Her religion guides her perspective on life.”

Daniel Goldberg, authorized director of the liberal Alliance for Justice, was important of Lagoa’s document, saying she is a choose “who has confirmed contempt for our democracy.” Goldberg mentioned he has “little doubt that she’s going to meet Donald Trump’s litmus check” for a Supreme Courtroom nominee and help his pledge to overturn Roe and the Reasonably priced Care Act.

DeSantis, a staunch Trump ally, was so taken with Lagoa when he met along with her in August 2018 in Miami that he thought-about placing her on his ticket because the candidate for lieutenant governor, mentioned Gaetz, a co-chair of the governor’s transition staff. DeSantis is now backing efforts to foyer the White Home on Lagoa’s behalf, in line with folks in Washington and Tallahassee acquainted with the pitch, lots of whom spoke on the situation of anonymity to recount personal conversations.

The mom of three daughters, together with a pair of twins, is quiet and collegial, with shrewd political instincts, in line with interviews with former colleagues, longtime buddies and authorized teachers who’ve adopted the arc of her profession.

Particularly central for her, these observers mentioned, was her expertise as a member of the professional bono authorized staff representing the Miami kinfolk of Elián González, the Cuban boy whose mom drowned whereas attempting to flee with him to america and whose subsequent custody case turned a global trigger celebre. He was ultimately returned to his father in Cuba after a shock raid through which federal brokers eliminated him from a Miami dwelling in April 2000. “Elián was a trophy in a battle between the Cuban authorities and the relentless anti-Castro politics of the Miami Cuban group, of which Lagoa turned a outstanding member,” mentioned David Abraham, an emeritus professor on the College of Miami Faculty of Regulation. “His case turned a venue for group solidarity and the upkeep and building of political energy.”

Others drew completely different classes from the authorized battle. Jeb Bush’s former common counsel, Raquel A. Rodriguez, who helped oversee the vetting course of that put Lagoa on the Miami-based third District Courtroom of Enchantment, mentioned the episode confirmed Lagoa’s willpower.

“She should have labored day and night time on that,” Rodriguez mentioned. “She actually believed that this little boy deserved to develop up in freedom, which is what his mom needed for him. It weighs on her to at the present time.”

Bush, whereas not responding to a query about whether or not the Senate ought to verify a nominee so near a presidential election, described Lagoa in an e mail as an “clever, constant, hardworking choose.”

Whereas Barrett, 48, has a extra outstanding nationwide profile and a portfolio of writing and speeches as a regulation professor that endears her to the conservative authorized group, Lagoa has an extended historical past as a choose, in addition to expertise as a federal prosecutor, her allies mentioned. They have been at pains particularly to current her as an originalist who would adhere to the letter of the Structure within the mould of Antonin Scalia, the late justice for whom Barrett clerked.

Lagoa has helped render judgments in about 12,000 circumstances and written greater than 400 opinions, Panuccio estimated.

Lagoa’s husband, Paul C. Huck Jr., is the “godfather of the Federalist Society in Miami,” mentioned José Félix Díaz, a former state legislator and guide with Ballard Companions, a highly effective lobbying agency carefully related to Trump.

Huck is an legal professional with Jones Day, the agency that has represented Trump’s marketing campaign. His father, Paul C. Huck, is a choose on the U.S. District Courtroom for the Southern District of Florida, a place to which he was nominated by Invoice Clinton in 2000. “I don’t assume they get overly partisan on the kitchen desk,” Díaz added.

Lagoa was born in Miami and grew up in Hialeah. She graduated from Florida Worldwide College in 1989 and obtained her regulation diploma from Columbia College in 1992, in line with her court docket biographies.

After her appointment by Bush in 2006, she served for 13 years on the Miami-area appeals court docket. Lagoa was amongst DeSantis’s first nominees to the Florida Supreme Courtroom, making her the primary Cuban American lady on the court docket.

However her cease in Tallahassee turned one of many shortest in 50 years. After fewer than 9 months, she was nominated by Trump to take a seat on the U.S. Courtroom of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. The Senate confirmed her nomination by a bipartisan 80-to-15 vote.

Democratic questions for Lagoa targeted on her connections to the Federalist Society and whether or not she knowingly benefited from the influential nonprofit’s rising use of pricy media campaigns to advertise conservative judges.

In written solutions, she recalled how the group’s highly effective government vp, Leonard Leo, had traveled to Orlando to interview finalists for the federal bench. She mentioned she first met Leo “in passing” after a Federalist Society luncheon in 2015, and didn’t recall talking with him once more till the interview in 2019.

She additionally acknowledged having attended an annual Federalist Society convention and celebration hosted for judges at Disney World. She mentioned she was not conscious of assembly any fundraisers on the occasion in 2019 who might have been supporting her nomination.

“I spent most of my time on the dessert reception talking with legal professionals and different judges, in addition to their kids, about non-legal issues (e.g., our youngsters, our day on the rides at different theme parks at Walt Disney World),” she wrote.

Tom Hamburger, Alice Crites and Lori Rozsa contributed to this report.


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