Meet Judge Barbara Lagoa of the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (11th Cir.)

LIT COMMENTARY

It’s not just about the rise of an immigrant to Appellate Court Judge on the corrupt Eleventh Circuit, it’s the background of this “mafia-esque” federalists’ family tree.

Paul Huck Jr., Barbara Lagoa’s Husband:

5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Updated Sep 22, 2020

Barbara Lagoa, the federal judge who is on President Donald Trump’s short list to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court, is married to Paul Huck Jr., an attorney who is the son of a federal judge.

Lagoa was one of two women Trump touted after Ginsburg’s death as a possible replacement; the other is federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Lagoa’s husband, Huck Jr., has close ties to the conservative Federalist Society and is a partner at a law firm that has represented President Donald Trump’s campaign, according to The Washington Post.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Lagoa & Her Husband Have Three Children Together

According to her Florida Supreme Court biography, Lagoa is married to Paul C. Huck, Jr., an attorney. “They have three daughters.” They include a set of twins.

“Justice Lagoa left the Florida Supreme Court on December 6, 2019, when she received her commission as a judge on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals based in Atlanta from President Donald Trump,” the bio says.

In 2019, it says, :she became the first Latina and the first Cuban American woman appointed to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.”

She was named to the Florida Supreme Court by Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican. Before that, Governor Jeb Bush appointed her in 2006 to sthe Third District Court of Appeal. “On January 1, 2019, she became the first Hispanic female Chief Judge of the Third District Court of Appeal,” says the bio.

2. Huck Was General Counsel to a Florida Governor & Is an Attorney in Private Practice

Paul Huck Jr., Barbara Lagoa’s husband, is a lawyer for the Miami firm, Jones Day. According to his law firm bio, Huck’s practice “focuses on business litigation, regulatory advice, and government investigations. He has an extensive legal career working in the private and public sectors. He has represented entities and individuals in trials and appeals before state and federal courts in complex commercial litigation and cases of constitutional significance.”

From 2007 to 2008, Paul Huck “served as general counsel to the governor of Florida and was the principal legal advisor to the governor on a host of constitutional, legislative, and statutory issues affecting the executive branch,” the bio explains. Republican Charlie Crist was Republican during that time frame.

“He also supervised the major litigation being prosecuted or defended by the governor’s executive agencies, including cases arising in the environmental, transportation, and health care arenas.” The bio says he also helped engage gaming compacts between the state of Florida and the Seminole tribe that involved “allocation of water rights.”

He was Florida’s deputy attorney general and also worked for a “Miami litigation boutique law firm,” concentrating on “complex commercial litigation.”

3. Lagoa’s Father-in-Law Is a Federal Judge Appointed by Bill Clinton

Lagoa’s husband’s father is also a federal judge; he was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton. He is a senior judge.

According to Ballotpedia, Paul C. Huck “is an Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.” Clinton nominated him in 2000 and he received senior status in 2010.

Ballotpedia reports that the elder Huck has served in the Army Reserves and in private practice. He was born in Covington, Kentucky, and was educated at the University of Florida and University of Florida College of Law, according to the Federal Judicial Center.

Southern District of Florida
Eleventh Circuit
Fedbadgesmall.png
Judgeships
Posts: 18
Judges: 16
Vacancies: 2
Judges
Chief: K. Michael Moore
Active judges: Kevin Michael MooreRodolfo RuizUrsula UngaroCecilia AltonagaMarcia CookeBeth BloomDarrin P. GaylesKathleen M. WilliamsRobin L. RosenbergRobert N. Scola Jr.Jose MartinezWilliam DimitrouleasDonald MiddlebrooksAnuraag SinghalRoy AltmanRodney Smith
Senior judges:
Federico MorenoWilliam ZlochPatricia SeitzJames KingJose GonzalezDonald GrahamDaniel HurleyPaul HuckJoan LenardKenneth MarraJames Cohn

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida is one of 94 United States district courts. The district operates out of courthouses in MiamiFort LauderdaleWest Palm Beach, and Fort Pierce, Florida. Appeals from the court are directed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Vacancies

See also: Current federal judicial vacancies

There are two current vacancies on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, out of the court’s 18 judicial positions.

Pending nominations

Judge Appointed By Assumed Office Bachelors Law
Aileen Cannon Donald Trump Duke University, 2003 University of Michigan Law School, 2007

Active judges

Article III judges

Judge Appointed By Assumed Office Bachelors Law
Kevin Michael Moore George H.W. Bush February 10, 1992 Florida State University, 1972 Fordham University Law, 1976
Rodolfo Ruiz Donald Trump May 3, 2019 Duke University, 2002 Georgetown University Law Center, 2005
Ursula Ungaro George H.W. Bush October 9, 1992 University of Miami, Florida, 1973 University of Florida Law, 1975
Cecilia Altonaga George W. Bush May 7, 2003 Florida International University, 1983 Yale Law, 1986
Marcia Cooke George W. Bush May 18, 2004 Georgetown University, 1975 Wayne State University, 1977
Beth Bloom Barack Obama June 25, 2014 University of Florida, 1984 University of Miami School of Law, 1988
Darrin P. Gayles Barack Obama June 19, 2014 Howard University, 1990 George Washington University Law Center, 1993
Kathleen M. Williams Barack Obama August 4, 2011 Duke University, 1978 University of Miami Law, 1982
Robin L. Rosenberg Barack Obama July 24, 2014 Princeton University, 1983 Duke University School of Law, 1989
Robert N. Scola Jr. Barack Obama October 20, 2011 Brown University, 1977 Boston College Law, 1980
Jose Martinez George W. Bush September 17, 2002 University of Miami, 1962 University of Miami School of Law, 1965
William Dimitrouleas William J. Clinton May 22, 1998 Furman University, 1973 University of Florida College of Law, 1975
Donald Middlebrooks William J. Clinton May 27, 1997 University of Florida, 1968 University of Florida Law, 1972
Anuraag Singhal Donald Trump December 20, 2019 Rice University, 1986 Wake Forest University School of Law, 1989
Roy Altman Donald J. Trump Columbia University, 2004 Yale Law School, 2007
Rodney Smith Donald Trump June 14, 2019 Florida A&M University, 1996 Michigan State University, 1999

Active Article III judges by appointing political party

The list below displays the number of active judges by the party of the appointing president. It does not reflect how a judge may rule on specific cases or their own political preferences.

  • Democrat appointed: 7
  • Republican appointed: 9

Senior judges

Judge Appointed By Assumed Office Bachelors Law
Federico Moreno George H.W. Bush July 17, 2020 University of Notre Dame, 1974 University of Miami School of Law, 1978
William Zloch January 31, 2017 University of Notre Dame, 1966 Notre Dame Law School, 1974
Patricia Seitz November 16, 2012 Kansas State University, 1968 Georgetown University Law Center, 1973
James King December 20, 1992 University of Florida, 1949 University of Florida Law, 1953
Jose Gonzalez November 30, 1996 University of Florida, 1952 University of Florida, 1957
Donald Graham December 15, 2013 West Virginia State College, 1971 The Ohio State University, Moritz School of Law, 1974
Daniel Hurley February 24, 2009 St. Anselm`s College, 1964 George Washington University Law Center, 1968
Paul Huck August 31, 2010 University of Florida, 1962 University of Florida School of Law, 1965
Joan Lenard July 1, 2017 Roger Williams University, 1973 Antioch School of Law, 1976
Kenneth Marra August 1, 2017 State University of New York, Stony Brook, 1973 Stetson University College of Law, 1977
James Cohn August 5, 2016 University of Alabama, 1971 Samford University, Cumberland School of Law, 1974

Senior judges by appointing political party

The list below displays the number of senior judges by the party of the appointing president. It does not reflect how a judge may rule on specific cases or their own political preferences.

  • Democrat appointed: 5
  • Republican appointed: 6

Magistrate judges

Federal magistrate judges are federal judges who serve in United States district courts, but they are not appointed by the president and they do not serve life terms. Magistrate judges are assigned duties by the district judges in the district in which they serve. They may preside over most phases of federal proceedings, except for criminal felony trials. The specific duties of a magistrate judge vary from district to district, but the responsibilities always include handling matters that would otherwise be on the dockets of the district judges. Full-time magistrate judges serve for renewable terms of eight years. Some federal district courts have part-time magistrate judges, who serve for renewable terms of four years.[1]

Judge Appointed By Assumed Office Bachelors Law
Patrick M. Hunt
Lurana S. Snow
William Matthewman July 2, 2012 Florida International University University of Florida
John O’Sullivan
Dave Lee Brannon U.S. Coast Guard Academy University of Miami School of Law
Edwin Torres October 31, 2003
Jonathan Goodman
Alicia Otazo-Reyes University of Miami University of Miami Law
Alicia O. Valle Rutgers University Harvard Law School
Bruce Reinhart March 19, 2018 Princeton University University of Pennsylvania Law School
Chris McAliley Tufts University, 1979 New York University Law, 1983
Lauren Fleischer Louis February 24, 2018 Towson University, 1997 Fordham University School of Law, 2000
Jaqueline Becerra January 5, 2019
Jared Strauss January 29, 2020 Harvard Law School, 2005
Shaniek Maynard June 26, 2017

4. Huck Jr. Was Called the ‘Godfather of the Federalist Society in Miami’

Huck Jr. is the “godfather of the Federalist Society in Miami,” said José Félix Díaz, a former state legislator, to The Washington Post. The Federalist Society is a prominent conservative group of lawyers. He’s listed on the Federalist Society’s website.

The Tampa Bay Times described the Federalist Society as “a group of conservatives and libertarians that push for a strict reading of the U.S. Constitution that adheres to the original text of the document” and reported that Lagoa is also a member of it.

Diaz added to the Post of the family, “I don’t think they get overly partisan at the kitchen table.”

Justice Barbara Lagoa “was born in Miami, Florida. She received her Bachelor of Arts cum laude in 1989 from Florida International University where she majored in English and was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society,” the Florida Supreme Court bio reads.

“Justice Lagoa received her Juris Doctor from Columbia University School of Law in 1992, where she served as an Associate Editor of the Columbia Law Review. She is fluent in English and Spanish.”

Prior to joining the bench, Justice Lagoa practiced in both the civil and criminal arenas. Her civil practice at Greenberg Traurig focused on general and complex commercial litigation, particularly the areas of employment discrimination, business torts, securities litigation, construction litigation, and insurance coverage disputes.

In 2003, she joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida as an Assistant United States Attorney, where she worked in the Civil, Major Crimes and Appellate Sections. As an Assistant United States Attorney, she tried numerous criminal jury trials, including drug conspiracies and Hobbs Act violations. She also handled a significant number of appeals.

While a practicing lawyer, Justice Lagoa was admitted to The Florida Bar, the United States District Courts for the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She was also a member of many local, state, and national professional groups including the Dade County Bar Association, and the Florida Association for Women Lawyers.

Justice Lagoa’s civic and community activities include service on the Board of Directors for the YWCA of Greater Miami and Dade County, the Film Society of Miami, Kristi House, and the FIU Alumni Association. She was also a member of the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission. She is currently a member of the Eugene P. Spellman and William Hoeveler Chapter of the American Inns of Court.

5. Paul Huck Is Harvard-Educated & Teaches Law

Huck has a law degree from Harvard University and a degree from Princeton, according to his bio at the University of Miami School of Law.

He’s a member of the adjunct faculty at that law school, co-teaching “Professional Responsibility.”

See his LinkedIn page.

LAGOA, BARBARA

Barbara Lagoa, a Justice on the Florida Supreme Court, would be Trump’s first nonwhite nominee to the Eleventh Circuit, and would flip the court to being evenly divided between the genders, a rare case of gender progress on the bench in the last few years.

Background

Barbara Lagoa was born in Miami in 1967.  After getting a B.A. with honors from Florida International University, Lagoa joined Columbia University Law School, graduating in 1992.  After graduating, Lagoa worked in private practice in Miami, moving between the firms of Morgan Lewis & Brockius LLP, Schulte Blum McMahon Joblove & Haft, Cohen Berke Bernstein Brodie & Kondell, P.A., and Greenberg Traurig.

In 2003, Lagoa became a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  In 2006, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed her to the Third Circuit Court of Appeal in Florida.  In 2019, she was elevated by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the Florida Supreme Court.

History of the Seat

Lagoa was tapped for a Florida seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  The seat was vacated by Judge Stanley Marcus.  Notably, Lagoa was nominated only months after she joined the Florida Supreme Court.

Legal Experience

Before she became a judge, Lagoa gained experience in both civil and criminal law, working in private practice and with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  However, perhaps the most prominent case that Lagoa handled was her representation of Lazaro Gonzalez, the Miami-based great uncle of Elian Gonzalez.[1]  Gonzalez left Cuba with his mother and her boyfriend, who both died during the boat journey into Florida.[2]  The push to return Gonzalez to Cuba caused significant partisan conflict as well as intervention by both Congress and the Clinton Administration.[3]  In representing the family, Lagoa represented them in the media and court proceedings seeking to block Elian’s removal to Cuba.[4]  Elian was ultimately returned to his father’s family in Cuba after intervention by Attorney General Janet Reno after court intervention was rejected.

Jurisprudence

Lagoa has served on the Florida Supreme Court for approximately eight months, before which she was a judge on the Court of Appeal of Florida for thirteen years.  On both courts, Lagoa has developed a conservative jurisprudence.  Her appointment to the Florida Supreme Court in 2019, alongside that of Judges Carlos Muniz and Robert Luck, flipped the court from a liberal majority to a conservative one.  This new conservative majority reversed several decisions made by the previous majority, with the only holdover majority judge, Judge Jorge Labarga, in dissent.[5]

For example, in one case, Lagoa joined 6-1 majorities in reversing two 4-3 Florida Supreme Court decisions: one that upheld Orange County election code that allowed officials to be elected in nonpartisan elections; and one that handled attorney-fee disputes in a foreclosure battle.[6]  In a different case, Lagoa joined the majority in reversing another 4-3 Florida Supreme Court ruling and allowing Florida legislative standards for expert witnesses to be entered, even as her fellow conservative Robert Luck excoriated the court for failing to follow proper procedures in reversing itself.[7]

Overall Assessment

With extensive experience as an appellate judge and as a Supreme Court justice, Lagoa is certainly well-qualified for an appellate seat.  While she may draw questions about her conservative jurisprudence, it is likely to be expected that this Administration will put out conservative candidates.  As such, Lagoa would likely be confirmed fairly comfortably.


[1] Tom Raum, Capitol Hill Wary on Cuban Boy, A.P. Online, Jan. 27, 2000.

[2] See id.

[3] See id.

[4] See, e.g.,  Wolf Blitzer, Mark Potter, Federal Court Begins Examining Complicated International Custody Battle Over Elian Gonzalez, CNN The World Today, Mar. 9, 2000.

[5] See Florida Politics, Reversals Show New Day on Supreme Court, State Capital Newsfeed, Apr. 19, 2019.

[6] See id.

[7] What’s Up With Florida’s New Supreme Court? This Case Helps Explain,  Tampa Bay Times Blogs, May 24, 2019.

PN1171 — Barbara Lagoa — The Judiciary 116th Congress (2019-2020)

NOMINATION

Description

Barbara Lagoa of Florida, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit, vice Stanley Marcus, retiring.

Organization
The Judiciary

Latest Action

11/20/2019 – Confirmed by the Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 80 – 15. Record Vote Number: 360.

Date Received from President

10/15/2019

Committee
Senate Judiciary

Actions: PN1171 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)

11/20/2019

Confirmed by the Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 80 – 15. Record Vote Number: 360.

11/20/2019

Considered by Senate.

11/19/2019

By unanimous consent agreement, debate  11/20/2019.

11/19/2019

Considered by Senate.

11/19/2019

Cloture invoked in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 80 – 15. Record Vote Number: 359.

11/14/2019

By unanimous consent agreement, mandatory quorum required under Rule XXII waived.

11/14/2019

Cloture motion presented in Senate.

11/07/2019

Placed on Senate Executive Calendar. Calendar No. 488.

11/07/2019

Reported by Senator Graham, Committee on the Judiciary, without printed report.

11/07/2019

Committee on the Judiciary. Ordered to be reported favorably.

10/16/2019

Committee on the Judiciary. Hearings held.

10/15/2019

Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

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