Judge Barbara Lagoa, included on President Donald Trump’s “short list” of potential candidates for the federal Supreme Court, is a source of pride for Cuban Americans in South Florida, but she does not arouse the same enthusiasm among progressive organizations.
“She’s a sensational woman,” Trump said Monday about Lagoa in a statement to Fox television, while the Alliance for Justice (AFJ) expressed its “strong” opposition to her appointment, because of the meaning of some of her rulings.
“Barbara Lagoa can cause great harm to millions of Americans,” AFJ legal director Daniel Goldberg told Efe, although he said that with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, of Indiana, and Judge Allison Jones Rushing, of North Carolina, also mentioned as possible candidates, it would be “the same thing.
Following the death of progressive Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, last Friday Trump announced that he intends to appoint a woman to fill the vacancy and that he intends to do so before the elections.
The daughter of Cubans who fled Castro, Lagoa was born in 1968 in Miami-Dade and grew up in Hialeah, a city in that county that is one of the least diverse in the country, with more than 96% of the population identifying themselves as “Hispanic” and three-quarters of them as Cuban.
PRIDE FOR THE COMMUNITY
Married to a lawyer, Paul C. Huck, and mother of three daughters, she has always been linked to her community as evidenced by the fact that she was part of the team of lawyers that represented the family of “balserito” Elián González free of charge in 2000 in the legal battle that ended unfavorably for them with the delivery of the child to his father and his transfer to Cuba.
Political analysts say that Trump, aside from her professional merits and conservatism, has thought of her as an asset to win over the Latino voters of Florida, a state that may be decisive in the Nov. 3 elections.
Politico magazine says Florida Republican politicians like Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio have promoted Lagoa to that end, given Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s lead among Latinos (62% vs. 26% in a Sunday poll).
Cuban exile leaders consulted by Efe denied that this is “a political move.
“Lagoa has enough merit to be nominated (?) she is a Hispanic pride and an example of what we Cubans can achieve in freedom,” opposition leader Rosa María Payá told Efe.
Throughout her judicial career, Lagoa has always been the first Hispanic and the first Cuban-American to reach a position, but on the U.S. Supreme Court she would not be, as Puerto Rican-born Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been on the high court since 2009.
CAREER AND FAITH
In January 2019, when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appointed her as a judge of the state Supreme Court, Lagoa, with a faltering voice, thanked her parents in Spanish for “all the sacrifices” they made for her.
She also stressed the “freedom” her family found in the United States and the possibility they have had, like many other Cubans, to rebuild their lives in this country.
She came to the Florida Supreme Court after serving almost 13 years as a judge on the state’s Third District Court of Appeals.
She is currently a judge on the 11th District Court of Appeals in Atlanta, a position to which she was appointed by Trump in late 2019 and for which she left the Florida Supreme Court.
With a Bachelor of Arts degree “cum laude” from Florida International University (FIU), based in Miami, Lagoa continued her studies at Columbia University in New York, where she earned her Juris Doctorate in 1992 and then worked for major law firms.
“For those of you who know something about Cuban-American families, I’m not just a daughter or granddaughter, so going to law school in New York City was not a popular decision in my home,” she said on the day she took office as Florida’s chief justice.
Her Catholic faith is another of her trademarks. In 2019, she said at a public event that the “enduring faith in God” she was instilled with as a child has sustained her “through the ups and downs of life.
PROGRESSIVES DON’T WANT HER
Lagoa’s court rulings raise fears that “he will side with the rich and powerful at the expense of ordinary Americans,” the AFJ warned in 2019.
The legal director of that organization said today that the judges that Trump appoints to the Supreme Court have the characteristic that they will rule “automatically” in favor of his policy.
A Supreme Court hearing on the Obamacare Affordable Care Act is scheduled for a week after the election, and Trump’s watchword is to end it, which will mean “great harm to millions of people.
“Being on Trump’s ‘short list’ means that he is someone who will put ideology above the rights and legal protection of citizens,” he added.
Goldberg noted that Lagoa was one of the judges on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals who voted in favor of a ruling that prevents people who have served sentences in Florida from voting in elections if they do not first pay court costs and fines they owe.
Judge Adalberto Jordan, the only one who voted against it, stressed that this decision denies the right to vote to people who “have more than fulfilled their debt to society” and ignores that Floridians approved in a popular consultation by a large majority that this right be restored to them.