Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) appointed Carlos G. Muñiz to the Florida Supreme Court on January 22, effective immediately. Muñiz is DeSantis’ third appointment to the court. DeSantis previously appointed Florida Third District Court of Appeal Judges Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck. The seats were vacant following the retirement of Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince on January 7. Pariente and Lewis were appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles (D) in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Quince’s appointment was a joint decision between Chiles and incoming Gov. Jeb Bush (R) in December 1998.
All seven members of the Florida Supreme Court were appointed by Republican governors–three by Gov. DeSantis, one by Gov. Rick Scott, and three by Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist was the Republican governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011. He changed his party affiliation to Democrat in 2012.
The 2018 gubernatorial election was framed by pundits and media members as a battle for control of the state court. Prior to the appointments by DeSantis, the Florida Supreme Court was labeled as having a liberal majority. The new appointments are considered a shift to a conservative majority of judges.
Muñiz is the 89th Florida Supreme Court justice since Florida statehood. Prior to his judicial appointment, Muñiz was the general counsel to the U.S. Department of Education. He was appointed to the position by President Donald Trump (R) and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2018. Muñiz was the deputy attorney general and chief of staff for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) from 2011 to 2014. He also previously served as deputy general counsel for the Jeb Bush gubernatorial administration and as deputy chief of staff and counsel in the Florida House of Representatives for then-Speaker Marco Rubio (R).
Muñiz obtained a B.A. with high honors from the University of Virginia in 1991. He received a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1997. During his legal studies, Muñiz served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.
Newly appointed judges serve for at least one year, after which they appear in a yes-no retention election held during the next general election. If retained, judges serve six-year terms.
Florida is one of 22 Republican trifectas.