by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
“Gov. Ron DeSantis used secretive panel to flip state Supreme Court,” reports The Washington Post.
Wow, that sounds bad.
How did the Florida governor pull off this Machiavellian coup? It’s complicated. First, DeSantis “narrowly” won the governorship in 2018 by obtaining more votes than his opponent. Smart, right? And then, rather than handing judicial nomination decisions to Democrats and their allies, the governor picked his own replacements for three Florida Supreme Court seats after justices were compelled to step down due to the state’s mandatory retirement age, a requirement passed by a referendum of the voters.
But the scheme does not end there. DeSantis also relied on a bunch of noted legal advisers to help him find competent candidates whose judicial outlooks matched his own.
Here is how reporters Beth Reinhard and Josh Dawsey describe the process:
“The hard-right turn was by design. DeSantis seized on the unusual retirement of three liberal justices at once to quickly remake the court. He did so with the help of a secretive judicial panel led by Leonard Leo — the key architect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority — that quietly vetted judicial nominees in an Orlando conference room three weeks before the governor’s inauguration.”
So, you see, a “hard-right” turn — as if there’s any other kind — was the “design” of a “secretive judicial panel” that “quietly” “seized” on an “unusual” moment. Using a bunch of loaded words to create the impression that a completely standard political event is something insidious and corrupt is an act of Potemkin journalism.
The shadowy Federalist Society, by the way, has around 70,000 lawyers as members and hundreds of chapters at law schools around the country, which have staged thousands of open events and debates over the years.