President Donald Trump could announce his nomination for the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as early as this week. Trump has said he would like to nominate a woman to replace Justice Ginsburg. Judge Barbara Lagoa, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, is considered a leading contender. Earlier this week, Trump said of Lagoa, “She’s excellent. She’s Hispanic. She’s a terrific woman from everything I know. I don’t know her. Florida. We love Florida.”

Bio

  • Lagoa has only been a federal judge since December 2019. She was nominated by Trump in September and confirmed by an 80-15 vote in the Senate in November.
  • She briefly served on the Florida Supreme Court after Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed her in January 2019. She was the first Cuban American woman to sit on the Florida Supreme Court.
  • Lagoa was born in Miami, Florida, and attended Columbia University Law School, graduating in 1992. She was associate editor of the school’s law review.
  • In 2000, Lagoa was on the legal team representing the Miami family of Elián González in a notorious international custody battle. González, a 6-year old boy from Cuba, was found floating on an inner tube off the U.S. coast after his mother died attempting to cross from Cuba to the United States. He had family in both countries.
  • In 2003, Lagoa became an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Florida, where she tried numerous drug conspiracy cases.
  • In 2006, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Lagoa to the state’s 3rd District Court of Appeals.
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One decision

Following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, Lagoa joined a unanimous majority on the Florida Supreme court ruling that Gov. DeSantis acted within his authority when he suspended Scott Israel. Israel, a sheriff who had come under scrutiny for his handling of the shooting and inconsistencies in his later statements, had accused DeSantis of suspending him for political gain. Lagoa wrote that the suspension “contains allegations that bear some reasonable relation to the charge made against the officer,” and was therefore sound.

Why is she the pick?

Lagoa’s nomination could help Trump to shore up support in a battleground state ahead of November’s election. “She is a Cuban woman from Miami, and Florida is the most important state in the election,” Jesse Panuccio, former acting associate attorney general under Trump, told The Washington Post.

What’s the obstacle?

Her record on voting rights alarms Democrats. This summer, Lagoa sided with a 6-4 majority upholding a law that requires Florida residents convicted of a felony to repay court costs before they can vote. The law has been called a “poll tax” by its detractors. Local editorials and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee called on Lagoa and others to recuse themselves after hearing a related case on the state’s Supreme Court: “Your involvement in this case also appears to violate the code of conduct for United States judges,” the senators wrote.

Key quote

“The principles that were articulated in the Constitution at the time of ratification have a meaning. That meaning is constant. What changes is the application of that meaning to new things.” — Judge Lagoa on legal interpretation