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Eleventh Cir. Nominees Back Originalism, Breeze Through Hearing

Oct. 16, 2019, 7:05 PM

Two Donald Trump appeals court nominees breezed through their Senate confirmation hearing Oct. 16, easily fielding questions about how they interpret the Constitution.

Barbara Lagoa and the Robert Luck, both justices on the Supreme Court of Florida, are nominated to seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which, which encompasses Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.

The pair received little pushback from Democrats at the Judiciary Committee hearing in the Republican-led Senate. They’ve previously criticized Trump judicial picks over inexperience and ideology they view as extreme.

Trump is fulfilling a 2016 campaign vow to remake the courts with conservatives. The Senate has confirmed 148 of his nominees to district and circuit courts, and Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Key Senate conservatives have insisted that Trump judicial selections adhere to originalism, which focuses on the meaning of the constitutional text when it was ratified.

Lagoa, the first Hispanic woman on the Florida Supreme Court, said her judicial philosophy is to “apply the rule of law to the facts of the case,” but she looks at the law as is written to derive its meaning.

Luck echoed his senior colleague has a similar view.

“I agree with Justice (Elena) Kagan that we’re all originalists now,” Luck said in reference to the progressive jurist’s remarks at her 2010 confirmation hearing.

“In other words, I think all of us including those at the Supreme Court, start with the premise that a constitutional provision means what it was understood to mean at the time it was enacted,” Luck said.

Luck’s resume include experience as a clerk for the Eleventh Circuit, an assistant U.S. attorney, a Florida circuit court judge, and a Florida district court judge.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Crawley in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at; Rebekah Mintzer at