A statewide panel is giving Governor-elect Ron DeSantis a list of 11 finalists to consider for the Florida Supreme Court.
One, Samuel Salario Jr., was born and raised in Tampa. He's an appellate judge for the Second District Court of Appeal, based in Lakeland.
Three justices are being forced to leave the state Supreme Court in early January due to age limits. The high court recently ruled the new justices will be selected by DeSantis and not Gov. Rick Scott.
The list of finalists includes Carlos Muniz, the general counsel for the U.S. Department of Education. Muniz once worked as chief of staff for Attorney General Pam Bondi and served as a top aide to former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Nine of the 11 finalists are currently serving as either appeals court or circuit court judges in Florida.
In a statement, DeSantis called the finalists “highly qualified.” He also said that would seek advice from Scott about whom to pick. In his campaign for governor, DeSantis said he would appoint “solid constitutionalists” and end “judicial activism” on the seven-member court.
One thing is certain: the makeup of the high court will swing to the right. The three retiring justices, Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, are considered the court's liberal wing. They will leave the court the day DeSantis takes office, because they have reached a mandatory retirement age.
Quince, who has served on the state Supreme Court since 1998, has agreed to serve on Hillsborough County's new Conviction Review Unit. Anyone who has been convicted of a felony in Hillsborough can ask to have their case reviewed and investigated to see if a mistake has been made.
Salario was appointed to the Second District Court of Appeal in 2014 by Governor Rick Scott. According to his biography on the court's web site, he was born and raised in Tampa. He is a first-generation Floridian and American on his father’s side of the family, which emigrated to Tampa from Palermo, Sicily in the 1930s.
Salario attended Jesuit High School of Tampa, graduating in 1988. In 1992, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Political Science from The American University in Washington, D.C. He returned to Florida for law school, graduating with high honors in 1995 from the University of Florida College of Law, where he was a member of the Florida Law Review and was inducted into the Order of the Coif.
He joined the Carlton Fields firm in 2002, and in 2004 was promoted to shareholder and, thereafter, became the leader of the firm’s Securities and Derivative Litigation Practice Group.