HOOPER

Tampa Bay Times - - Tampa Bay -

as Bureau Chief of the Crim­i­nal Ap­peals Di­vi­sion in the Tampa of­fice of the Florida At­tor­ney Gen­eral be­fore earn­ing an ap­point­ment to the 2nd District Court of Ap­peals.

Yet an uneasy feel­ing roiled un­der­neath all the event’s spe­cial mo­ments. The folks who cel­e­brated with Quince know that for the first time in 36 years, the state Supreme Court likely will not have an African-Amer­i­can mem­ber when Gov. Ron DeSan­tis fills three va­can­cies this year.

None of the 11 se­lected by the Supreme Court Nom­i­nat­ing Com­mis­sion are African-Amer­i­can, although six of the orig­i­nal 59 ap­pli­cants were African-Amer­i­cans.

“In ad­di­tion, the pres­ence of African-Amer­i­cans on the ap­pel­late bench is equally in peril,” for­mer state rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sean Shaw said in ad­dress­ing the au­di­ence. “We owe it to those who came be­fore us and to those who come af­ter us in call­ing out that wrong, and to refuse to let it be ex­plained away. The lega­cies we are here to honor demand no less of us.”

Shaw’s words may prove prophetic un­less DeSan­tis asks the com­mis­sion to re­con­vene and ex­pand the pool of fi­nal­ists.

A group of prom­i­nent AfricanAmer­i­can le­gal lead­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer State Sen. Arthe­nia Joyner and long­time Tampa at­tor­ney De­lano Ste­wart, have re­quested a meet­ing with DeSan­tis. But last week, DeSan­tis ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with the state Supreme Court’s past de­ci­sions and with the court “usurp­ing more and more leg­isla­tive” power.

Main­tain­ing di­ver­sity on the court and choos­ing can­di­dates based on le­gal ex­pe­ri­ence should stand as a greater pri­or­ity than find­ing jus­tices who share a cer­tain le­gal phi­los­o­phy.

And if you must, do both. Quince’s legacy, at the very least, de­mands a thought­ful con­sid­er­a­tion from the gover­nor on this is­sue. What bet­ter way to honor her? What bet­ter way to honor ev­ery Florid­ian.

That’s all I’m say­ing.

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