Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday appointed Robert J. Luck, a judge on the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami, to the Florida Supreme Court.
DeSantis announced the pick — first reported Sunday night by Florida Politics — at Scheck Hillel Community School, a Jewish school in North Miami Beach. Luck and his wife Jennifer’s children attend there.
The Governor was accompanied by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Attorney General Ashley Moody and First Lady Casey Black DeSantis.
The selection continues the rightward push of the state’s highest court by DeSantis, a Ponte Vedra Beach Republican.
DeSantis last week appointed Barbara Lagoa, chief judge of the 3rd District Court of Appeal, to replace retired Justice R. Fred Lewis. Lagoa’s seat is reserved for a resident of the state’s Third Appellate District for Miami-Dade County.
Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince had been regarded as the court’s liberal-leaning wing; they all faced mandatory age-related retirement on the same day DeSantis was sworn in. The Pariente and Quince seats are at-large.
Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston, Alan Lawson and now Lagoa are the conservatives. Justice JorgeLabarga often is a swing vote, though he has recently been voting with the conservative bloc.
“I understand how the judiciary — what Hamilton called our least dangerous branch — fits into our system of government,” Luck wrote in his application to the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC).
“Having worked in each of the three branches, I understand the modest role of the judge in reviewing the laws enacted by the legislature, the actions taken by the executive, and the findings of the lower courts,” he added. “I have conducted myself that way for the last five years, and I will continue to do so as long as I am permitted to serve.”
The 39-year-old South Miami native’s rise to the state’s highest court was quick: He graduated from the University of Florida’s law school in the top ten percent of his class in 2004 and was admitted to practice law here in 2006, according to his application.
After graduation, Luck clerked for Chief Judge Ed Carnes of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, worked at the Greenberg Traurig law firm in Miami, and was an assistant federal prosecutor in Miami 2008-13.
In 2013, then-Gov. Rick Scott appointed him a circuit judge in Miami-Dade County’s 11th Judicial Circuit. He was retained by election in 2016, then was appointed by Scott to the 3rd District Court of Appeal in 2017.
Asked to describe “significant cases” he presided over as a judge for his application, Luck mentioned among others a 2015 prosecution of a man charged with “battering a person over the age of 65.”
During a hearing, the defendant “rushed up from his seat and jumped at me. He and I tumbled down the steps of the bench, and as I was laying on the floor, (he) was on top of me, punching my head.
“My bailiff eventually ripped (him) off of me. I got up, dusted off my robe, fixed my chair, which had been knocked down, took my place on the bench, and dictated what had happened into the record. I then entered an order recusing myself from the case.
“Despite the bleeding and bruising, I declined medical attention and refused to file a worker’s compensation claim. Hearing about the incident in Tallahassee, then-Chief Justice Jorge Labarga wrote me this note: ‘I want to commend you for the professionalism you displayed in handling what must have been a very disturbing situation. Your coolness and understanding was exemplary.’ ”