Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rodney Smith secured a lifelong place on the Southern District of Florida bench Wednesday afternoon, when the Senate confirmed him 78-18.
Smith fills a spot left by Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum, who was elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Smith rose to the county court in 2008, before then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to the circuit bench in 2012. Smith went on to win reelection in 2014 and served in the court’s civil and felony criminal divisions.
Smith, who’s previously labeled himself ”The skinny kid from Liberty City,” was the first member of his family to finish high school. He entered the legal arena 18 years ago as a Miami insurance defense lawyer and later served as senior assistant city attorney in Miami Beach.
Smith also co-chairs the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges’ diversity committee and holds degrees from Florida A&M University and Michigan State University College of Law.
When Smith ran for reelection, he garnered support from Miami’s United Auto Insurance Co., which spent more than $300,000 on his and Miami-Dade County Court Judge Nuria Saenz’s campaigns.
President Donald Trump nominated Smith in May 2018, but the nomination expired before lawmakers could vote. Trump renominated him in January, something U.S. Sen. John Thune alluded to in his morning remarks, criticizing what he labeled the delaying of “noncontroversial nominees” by Democratic senators.
“It’s deja vu in the Senate this week,” Thune said, adding, “I’m pretty frustrated myself, not because we’re considering these nominees — it’s our constitutional duty after all — but because we’re being forced to spend so much time on the nominations.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse included a spontaneous response in his remarks, conceding that the Senate floor “has become a battleground for so many of these nominees,” but claiming this is the first time in U.S. history that judges are being selected through “a private group funded by anonymous money.”
Whitehouse said, “That is a very bizarre way to go about picking judges.”
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