First Read

Judicial nominating panel to interview applicants for Tallahassee vacancy

Legal insiders agree one person is the inside favorite for appointment by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

A judicial nominating panel this week announced it would interview all eight applicants to fill a judicial vacancy caused by the March 15 death of Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll of Tallahassee. The Second Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission will hold the interviews, which are open to the public, starting at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 15, at the Leon County Court Annex in Tallahassee.  

Appointments to the Second Circuit have added gravitas because it’s where almost all lawsuits against the governor and state government are filed. (To be sure, however, the circuit covers six counties including Leon – the seat of state government – and new judges may be first assigned to the outlying counties. And all counties have other circuit divisions besides civil, such as felony and juvenile.)

Those to be interviewed are Assistant State Attorney James A. Beville; civil-practice attorney Robert G. Churchill Jr.; Cedell Ian Garland, deputy director of civil enforcement at the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit; Leon County Judge Jason L. Jones; Guilday Law firm shareholder Sarah F. Kjellin; criminal defense attorney Nina L. Moody; trial lawyer Lance E. Neff; and Joshua E. Pratt, a former deputy general counsel to Gov. Ron DeSantis now with the Tallahassee office of the Holtzman Vogel firm. 

The capital’s legal insiders agree that Pratt is the inside favorite for appointment by DeSantis, who must fill the position. 

Timing is also at issue here: Appointed judges must stand for election (they serve six-year terms) at the next regularly set election as nonpartisans. As the Tallahassee Democrat pointed out, “If DeSantis waits until after Aug. 20 (to make an appointment) – as some observers expect given the protracted process so far – the seat wouldn’t appear on ballots until 2026, with his appointee serving until early 2027.”

This is an extended version of today's First Up, an excerpt from City & State's daily morning newsletter, First Read. To subscribe for free, please visit our newsletters page

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