Justice Polston resigns from Florida Supreme Court; DeSantis will pick his replacement
Judge with Gavel (Shutterstock)

Florida Supreme Court Justice Rick Polston announced his resignation on Monday in a brief letter, just four months after winning a merit-retention vote giving him another six-year term, allowing Gov. Ron DeSantis the chance to place another conservative justice on the state’s highest court.

“I am writing to resign from the Florida Supreme Court effective March 31, 2023. It has been my great honor to serve the people of Florida in the judiciary for over 22 years, the first eight as a judge of the First District Court of Appeal and then 14 years as a justice of the [Supreme] Court,” Polston wrote.

“I truly am grateful for the opportunity to work with such great jurists, lawyers, and all those involved in the judiciary,” he continued.

A Supreme Court spokesman said he had nothing to add beyond a short bio contained in a press release.

DeSantis marked the moment in a Twitter post.

“Thank you to Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston for 15 years of service to Florida’s highest court. Justice Polston has been a remarkable Justice and was stalwart for the rule of law and the constitution of FL & the U.S. These are big shoes to fill!” it reads.

Polston, 67, was among five justices who went before the voters last year for a determination about whether they would remain on the court. Under Florida’s merit-retention system, commissions nominate potential justices to the governor, who makes the appointments, but justices periodically must stand in retention elections.

Since taking office in January 2019, DeSantis has placed six jurists on the Supreme Court, although two of them (Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck) soon were elevated to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. That leaves Carlos Muñiz, John Curiel, Jamie Grosshans, and Renatha Francis as DeSantis appointees. Justices Charles Canady and Jorge Labarga round out the seven-member court.

DeSantis has tended toward members of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy when selecting judges, which has made for a staunchly right-leaning court all too willing to reverse important precedents.

In recommending against retention of justices including Polston last year, the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel complained: “Florida’s highest court has become breathtakingly activist, repealing precedents wholesale to make criminal laws harsher, the death penalty more likely and civil courts more hostile to people with damage claims against Big Tobacco and other corporate defendants.”

Former Gov. Charlie Crist placed Polston on the court in 2008 and he served in the rotating position of chief justice, top administrator for the entire judicial branch, from 2012 to 2014, according to court records. He served during the national foreclosure crisis, which prompted hundreds of thousands of court filings. Polston also oversaw the transition to mandatory electronic filing, a spokesman noted.

This change comes as the high court weighs whether to overturn a decades-old precedent holding that the Florida Constitution’s Privacy Clause covers the right to abortion. The case involves a challenge to the state’s 15-week abortion ban.

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