Thu | Oct 22, 2020

Cuban-American judge from Florida on Trump high court list

Published:Monday | September 21, 2020 | 4:54 PM
U.S. Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, is shown in this official undated photo released by the Florida Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Florida Supreme Court)

MIAMI (AP) — A daughter of Cuban exiles who has had a swift rise as a lawyer and judge is on President Donald Trump’s short list to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The president said Monday that he does not personally know Barbara Lagoa, but praised her as “terrific.” Barely veiled was the fact that, as a Cuban-American from South Florida’s city of Hialeah, her selection could benefit Trump in the Nov. 3 election, when Florida could be the ultimate kingmaker. Lagoa grew up in a heavily Hispanic suburb of Miami.

“She’s excellent. She’s Hispanic. She’s a terrific woman from everything I know. I don’t know her. Florida. We love Florida. So she’s got a lot of things — very smart,” Trump said in a call-in interview with “Fox and Friends.”

Asked whether politics would play a role in the decision, Trump responded: “I try not to say so. I think probably automatically it is. Even if you’re not wanting to do that it becomes a little automatic.”

Speaking to reporters at the White House later Monday, Trump said he might meet Lagoa when he travels to Florida on Thursday for a campaign rally in Jacksonville. “She has a lot of support,” said Trump, who added he held calls on Sunday and Monday with some of the candidates he’s considering. “I don’t know her but I hear she is outstanding.”

After the death Friday of 87-year-old Ginsburg, a liberal icon, Trump said he would name a woman as a replacement — possibly by Saturday. Trump said Monday he has about five top prospects.

At 52, Lagoa would become the youngest member of the U.S. Supreme Court if nominated and confirmed.

Lagoa, an only child, once joked that after graduating from Florida International University leaving her close-knit Cuban-American family for New York to obtain her law degree from Columbia University “was not a popular decision in my house.”

When she was picked for the Florida Supreme Court, Lagoa said her father gave up his dream of becoming a lawyer and that both her parents worked long hours while she rode her bike and roller skated down the streets of Hialeah where she was cared for by her grandmother.

“My parents sacrificed to send me to Catholic school further instilling in me an abiding faith in God that has grounded me and sustained me through the highs and lows of life,” she said.

Lagoa is currently a judge on the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Trump appointed her to that post in 2019 and the Senate confirmed her on an 80-15 vote.

Before that, for less than a year she was a justice on the Florida Supreme Court after more than a decade on a Miami-based state appeals court where she wrote some 360 opinions. She was the first woman of Hispanic heritage on the state Supreme Court.

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