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DeSantis praises Miami’s legal talent, appointing seven judges to state, county courts
BY COLLEEN WRIGHT
DECEMBER 16, 2019 03:14 PM
Gov. Ron DeSantis stopped by the University of Miami’s law school library on Monday to announce that he will fill seven judicial vacancies in Miami-Dade County.
He elevated three county judges to the 11th Florida Circuit Court and made four appointments to Miami-Dade County Court.
County judges Ramiro Areces, Christina DiRaimondo and Robert Watson were all promoted to the 11th Circuit. Appointees to the county bench include Elisabeth Espinosa, a former state prosecutor and current partner at Cole, Scott and Kissane; Julie Harris Nelson, a former state prosecutor and current partner at ROIG Lawyers; federal prosecutor Miesha Darrough and federal public defender Ayana Harris.
DeSantis expressed his affinity for judges in the Miami area, having appointed two justices from Miami to fill two of the Florida Supreme Court’s three vacancies. Those justices, Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck, were quickly tapped to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.
“That just showed me from my appointment on, there’s a lot of great legal talent down here in South Florida and in Miami,” he said. “There’s a whole bumper crop of people down here who are really doing a good job.”
The appointment of three African-American judges at once to the county bench was lauded by South Florida’s legal community.
Before the appointments, there were 123 county and state judges in Miami-Dade County, and only six were black, according to the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Bar Association, the largest black attorneys’ group.
The dearth of black judges was so concerning that the association, in 2015, teamed up with other South Florida black lawyers groups to work on pushing for greater diversity on the bench.
“We are over the top with excitement. It’s something we’ve been advocating for for some time,” said Loreal Arscott, the association’s president. “The bench needs to reflect the diversity of our community, and this brings us a little closer to that.”
It was a homecoming of sorts on Monday for two of the judges: Areces graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Law, and Harris graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UM. They, along with DeSantis and law school dean Anthony E. Varona, posed for a photo honoring their alma mater.
Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.
Colleen Wright returned to the Miami Herald in May 2018 to cover all things education, including Miami-Dade and Broward schools, colleges and universities. The Herald was her first internship before she left her hometown of South Miami to earn a journalism degree from the University of Florida. She previously covered education for the Tampa Bay Times.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, poses with the seven recently appointed judges to Miami Dade County and the 11th Circuit at the Otto G. Richter Library at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, on Monday, December 16, 2019. SAM NAVARRO SPECIAL FOR THE MIAMI HERALD
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announces the appointment of seven judges to Miami Dade County and the 11th Circuit at the Otto G. Richter Library at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, on Monday, December 16, 2019. SAM NAVARRO SPECIAL FOR THE MIAMI HERALD