Gov. Rick Scott skipped over five more experienced judges and picked Mark Klingensmith, a relative judicial newcomer, on Thursday to fill a vacancy on the Fourth District Court of Appeal, which includes Broward and Palm Beach counties.
The Republican governor’s move wasn’t exactly a shock. Klingensmith had a credential that jumped out to people in the legal and political worlds, especially among Democrats. He’s a former chairman of the Martin County Republican Party.
He’s also a former commissioner and mayor of the Town of Sewall’s Point.
In a front page article he wrote for the Martin County Republican Party newsletter in December 2010 – before he became a judge – Klingensmith praised the voters for delivering a "national rebuke" to Democrats who were attempting to "advance their far-left agenda at the expense of taxpayers."
He said the voters sent a "clear message" to the "Nancy Pelosi liberals in Congress," and praised the victories of Marco Rubio, who was elected to the Senate, Allen West, who was elected to Congress – and the election of Scott, who appointed him to the appeals court on Thursday.
“Judge Klingensmith has served Floridians with integrity and distinction. I am proud to appoint him to the Fourth District Court of Appeal so he can continue his service to our state,” Scott said in a statement.
Klingensmith, 52, had already been appointed once before by Scott, in June 2011 as a circuit judge for Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties. He was elected to a term as circuit court judge in 2012.
Klingensmith, who lives in Stuart, has significantly less judicial experience that four of the other candidates, and has had a month less time on the bench than the fifth.
His legal resume includes 25 years practicing with a firm in West Palm Beach currently known as Sonneborn, Rutter, Cooney & Smith. He received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida, where he serves as a member of the law school’s Board of Trustees.
No woman has been appointed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, which hears cases from six counties, since 2002 and members of Palm Beach County and South Palm Beach County chapters of the Florida Association for Women lawyers wrote to Scott in May expressing their "very serious concern" about what they labeled a "gender drought."
Three of the six candidates recommended to Scott by the Judicial Nominating Commissioner were women.
The other five candidates include Palm Beach County circuit judges Peter Blanc, Janis Brustares Keyser, and Krista Marx; Broward Circuit Judge John Murphy, and Elizabeth Metzger, a circuit judge serving Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties.
The six finalists were culled from a pool of 18 by the nominating commission. Among the 12 whose names didn’t go to Scott’s desk was Broward Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips, the wife of former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle.