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Crist Names Judge to 5th District Court of Appeal

Gov. Charlie Crist named Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waldron Jacobus to the 5th District Court of Appeal Tuesday, a month after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that he must pick a judge from a list of names given to him by a nominating commission.

“Judge Jacobus’s 22 years as a private practitioner, along with his time as a circuit judge, have given him varied experience that will serve him well on the appellate court,” Crist said in a press release.

The vacancy on the appeals court came from the retirement of Judge Robert Pleus, who announced his retirement last fall. But the seat became a part of a political tug-of-war when Crist rejected the list of names that a nominating commission gave him, saying that the list did not reflect his desire to create a more diverse judicial system.

The head of the panel that nominates candidates for the 5th DCA said he believed that it did not have the constitutional authority to meet again and revise the original all-white list of nominees that included Jacobus.

The case eventually landed in the Florida Supreme Court in May after Pleus sued Crist to name his successor. An attorney for Pleus argued that Crist's disregard for the JNC process essentially eviscerated it, despite laudable goals of diversity.

Pleus told reporters at the time that he could understand the governor's goals in creating a more diverse judiciary, but that the hold up in naming a new judge was creating a disruption for the appeals court.

"And I believe passionately that the governor has an obligation under the constitution to make the appointment and he didn't do it,” Pleus said in May. “He took an oath."

At the beginning of July, the Supreme Court, which includes four Crist appointees, unanimously ruled in favor of Pleus, saying that Crist must name the new judge.

Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga - a recent Crist appointee - wrote in the opinion that Crist was bound by the constitution to make the judicial appointment. "Moreover, while we applaud the governor's interest in achieving diversity in the judiciary - an interest we believe to be genuine and well-intentioned - the constitution does not grant the governor the discretion to refuse or postpone making an appointment to fill the vacancy on the 5th District Court of Appeal," he wrote.

Jacobus, 65, has served on the 18th Circuit Court since 1995 and worked at various law firms before that. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a law degree from the University of Florida.

The 5th District appeals court, based in Daytona Beach, hears cases from east-central Florida.

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