Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday named Carlos Muñiz as his newest appointment to the Florida Supreme Court.
Speaking in front of the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee, DeSantis described Muñiz as ”among the highest qualified individuals to serve our state as a jurist on the Florida Supreme Court.”
“Justice Muñiz is regarded by his peers within the legal community as one of the most brilliant legal minds to serve our state,” DeSantis said. “His record in public service spans across two decades and all three branches of government, where he’s demonstrated a deep appreciation for the separation of powers throughout these institutions and a clear regard for the proper role of the courts.”
But critics were quick to point to the new justice’s lack of judicial experience.
Muñiz is general counsel for the U.S. Department of Education, where he leads the Office of the General Counsel, and provides legal and policy advice to the secretary of education and other senior officials, according to his public profile. The Yale Law School graduate served as deputy general counsel for former Gov. Jeb Bush, a role that saw him work under then-general counsel Charles Canady, who has since risen to chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Muñiz later acted as general counsel for Marco Rubio during the U.S. senator’s tenure as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.
Muñiz served as deputy attorney general and chief of staff to former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi between 2011 and 2014. He also defended Florida State University in a lawsuit alleging the school neglected to investigate a sexual assault allegation against star Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston.
Muñiz thanked DeSantis as well as President Donald Trump in his remarks during the announcement. He also committed “to excellence, to humility and to liberty” while serving on the bench.
Reactions to Muñiz’s appointment have varied.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody praised DeSantis’ pick, calling the new jurist “a great addition to the Florida Supreme Court.”
“Prior to taking office, I and my staff met and talked with Justice Muniz multiple times,” Moody said. “I was struck by his intellect, his integrity and his insight into government. My office looks forward to appearing in front of the full Florida Supreme Court, including Justice Muniz.”
But Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo criticized Muñiz’s new role within Florida’s highest court.
“From his appointment it’s clear that Ron DeSantis has no respect for the rule of the law and is seeking to stack the courts with his political allies,” Rizzo said. ”Carlos Muñiz has no judicial experience, [and] instead comes with a long political resume that includes working for Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education and Pam Bondi’s Attorney General Office.”
Greenberg Traurig shareholder Fred Karlinsky — a member of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission — called Muñiz’s experience a “potential positive” for the bench.
“His background is one that’s very diverse,” Karlinsky said. “He’s known to a number of people and I believe he will excel as a judge. … He’s always served in every role with distinction, and I’m sure he’ll do the same as a justice on the Supreme Court.”
Karlinsky referred to Muñiz’s elevation to the Florida Supreme Court as “another very thoughtful appointment” by Gov. DeSantis, who’s also elevated Third District Court of Appeal Judges Robert Luck and Barbara Lagoa.
He said, “Anyone in the legal community who knows the three new justices knows that they are very qualified, will excel in their roles, will not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law and Constitution of the state of Florida.”