DeSantis appoints anti-abortion judge who lost re-election to higher court
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) promoted a judge who lost re-election after refusing to allow a minor to terminate her pregnancy.
Judge Jared Smith, then serving on the Hillsborough County Circuit Court, heard the case of a 17-year-old who was trying to get an abortion without her parent’s consent last year. Under a 2020 Florida law, the only way for a minor to obtain an abortion without parental approval is through a process called judicial bypass. The minor must first prove to a judge that they are mature enough to make the decision without their parents.
Smith denied the minor’s petition, focusing on a discrepancy between her testimony that she earned B grades and her 2.0 GPA. “Clearly, a ‘B’ average would not equate to a 2.0 GPA,” Smith wrote. The inconsistency demonstrates “either a lack of intelligence or credibility, either of which weigh against a finding of maturity pursuant to the statute.”
In all areas of life, the 17-year-old proved to be more mature than her legally-adult peers:
The Petitioner has been working for the past year and has had three jobs during that time. Over the summer, she was working two of those jobs at once…The Petitioner has two credit cards and $1,600 in savings. She testified that although her mother pays her cellphone bill, she uses her own money “to pay for everything else for me, like clothes, nails, and all the other necessities.”
“She testified that she wants an abortion because she is not yet financially stable and that she wants to be able to be on her own first,” the court noted.
Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal overruled Smith’s decision, finding that the girl’s GPA “demonstrate[d] average intelligence for a high school student.” Furthermore, the District panel wrote, “[t]he Petitioner’s testimony demonstrates that she possesses an ability to assess the consequences of her choice and the risk it entails.”
Seven months later, Smith lost re-election 52-48 to Democrat Nancy Jacobs, who was backed by reproductive rights advocates.
Fast forward to last month, when Gov. DeSantis appointed Smith to the 6th District Court of Appeal, a promotion from his previous position.
Newly-elected Governor of New York Kathy Houchul (D) nominated an anti-union judge with a dismal abortion rights record to the state’s highest court. Hochul had the opportunity to shift the divided court away from its rightward bent when Chief Judge Janet DiFiore abruptly resigned in July, leaving the ideological breakdown as three conservatives, two liberals, and one moderate judge.
Instead of choosing a judge who upholds the values Hochul claims she supports, the Governor nominated Judge Hector LaSalle—a pick opponents, including many Democratic lawmakers, say will restore the court’s right-wing majority.
“Unfortunately, there appears to be a great possibility that Justice LaSalle would represent a continuation of the unacceptable status quo that has sullied the reputation of our state’s highest court and ruled inconsistently with the values held dear by New Yorkers,” New York state Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris said. “Accordingly, I would be compelled to vote ‘no’ should this nomination be brought to a vote.”
Under DiFiore, the conservative bloc on the New York Court of Appeals invalidated Democrats’ congressional maps and replaced it with a map more favorable to Republicans. Without their decision, the U.S. House would likely have remained under Democratic control.
Why does LaSalle evoke such strong opposition from the Governor’s own party? His record is anti-union, hostile to abortion rights, and harsh on criminal justice matters.
Unions: LaSalle joined a 2015 opinion gutting a New York law prohibiting management from suing union leaders as a form of harassment.
Abortions: LaSalle joined a 2017 opinion blocking the New York attorney general from fully investigating whether an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center” was practicing medicine without a license and engaging in false advertising.
Criminal justice: LaSalle joined a 2014 decision that allowed prosecutors to mislead defendants when signing a waiver of their own legal rights.
Before Hochul decided on a nominee, a group of 46 professors from law schools, including Columbia and Cornell, sent her a letter urging her not to choose LaSalle for the reasons listed above.
…the professors condemn what they call LaSalle’s “activist conservative jurisprudence,” and warn that his leadership would “take our State’s law in the wrong direction.”
Former Las Vegas city councilwoman Michele Fiore was unanimously appointed to a rural Nevada judgeship despite lacking a law degree or any relevant legal experience. Fiore, a failed candidate for Nevada’s 3rd congressional district, Nevada’s governorship, and the state Treasurer, was tapped to fill an empty Pahrump Justice Court judicial position late last month.
On top of her inexperience, Fiore has been the subject of a federal investigation, an IRS investigation, and a civil suit, has supported Cliven Bundy, has suggested that law enforcement officers disobey the law, and admitted to breaking the law herself when she was a member of the state Assembly.
Federal investigation: The FBI raided Fiore’s home in January 2021, later issuing subpoenas to the then-Coucilwoman seeking documents related to her campaign and PAC finances.
Records show she has used political funds for personal expenses and funneled thousands of dollars to her businesses and a planning events company run by her daughter.
This year, Fiore amended years of campaign and PAC financial disclosures, saying she lent nearly $60,000 to the two accounts since 2017. The councilwoman has not publicly explained why the disclosures were delayed.
Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine also filed a complaint against Fiore alleging a straw donor scheme and accepting illegal campaign contributions.
IRS investigation: The IRS has filed more than $1 million in tax liens against Fiore and her home health care businesses, Always There 4 You and Always There Personal Care.
Civil lawsuit: Fiore’s former colleague, Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, filed a civil suit against Fiore last year alleging bullying, assault, and battery.
Seaman’s case revolves around an incident in January 2021, in which she alleges that Fiore — a Republican who is running for state treasurer — violently attacked her, grabbing her hand and “pulling, jerking, twisting, and breaking … Seaman’s finger in a violent manner.” City Hall surveillance videos that captured the physical altercation have been deleted, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported last year.
Cliven Bundy: Fiore supported rancher Cliven Bundy during armed standoffs in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014 and Malheur, Oregon, in 2016.
In 2014, Fiore spent time at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch during the family’s standoff with the Bureau of Land Management. Fiore called the militia members who participated in the armed standoff “freedom fighters”…On Monday, Fiore announced that she would travel to Oregon to support Ammon Bundy and the other occupiers of the Malheur refuge currently under indictment.
Law enforcement: Fiore justified the Bundy’s armed standoff, calling federal Bureau of Land Management agents “wannabe cops” and “a bureaucratic agency of terrorism.” She went on to urge law enforcement officials “not to obey your superiors when given a direct order to attack your fellow Americans fighting for the freedoms granted to us by our constitution”.
Gun-free zones: Fiore admitted to breaking the law by carrying a firearm in gun-free zones, which in Nevada includes courthouses and government buildings. “And I can tell you, as someone that carries a firearm on me like my panties and bra, I do break the law because I generally carry my gun in places where they say is a gun-free zone, because I’m not going to be a victim of a stupid law,” she said in 2013.