Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Four locals get judicial responsibilities

Gov. Rick Scott appointed Key West attorney Robert Spottswood to the 3rd District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission on Tuesday and three other Keys residents to the 16th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.

Spottswood has been a member of The Florida Bar for 30 years and fills a vacancy on the appellate court for a term beginning Tuesday and ending July 1, 2016, according to a press release from the governor's office.

Scott's office also announced the following three appointments to the 16th Judicial Nominating Commission:

• Piper L. Smith, 49, of Key West, the vice president of marketing for Historic Tours of America, Inc. Smith has been reappointed and her term also ends on July 1, 2016;

• Anthony J. Barrows, 35, of Ramrod Key, an assistant regional counsel in the Office of Criminal and Civil Regional Conflict and personal attorney;

• Nathalia M. Abondano, 28, of Key West, an attorney with the law firm of Garcia & Smith, P.A. Both Abondano's and Barrows' terms end on July 1, 2015.

Abondano is the youngest attorney currently on the commission. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Miami and her law degree from Florida International University.

"I am very excited to have been selected," Abondano wrote in an email to The Citizen. "It is an honor to have been chosen from such a prestigious list of nominees."

What does it mean?

The judicial nominating commissions in Florida exist to fill vacancies that arise when judges retire or step down for some other reason.

County and circuit court judges are elected, but should they step down or leave office before their term expires the nominating commission in their respective circuit meets to give the governor a list of names of potential replacements for the outgoing judge. The governor, according to Florida law, must then select a name from that list.

Florida has 20 judicial circuits. Monroe County is the 16th, but there are 26 Judicial Nominating Commissions -- one for each of the 20 circuits, one for each of the five appellate courts and one for the state Supreme Court.

Each nominating commission is made up of five members picked by the governor and four suggestions from The Florida Bar that the governor must select.

For example, Barrows and Smith are direct appointments from the governor, but Abondano was selected by the governor from a list provided by The Florida Bar.

Monroe County Attorney Bob Shillinger is the current 16th Judicial Circuit Nominating Commission chairperson.

The 16th Judicial Circuit Nominating Commission meets annually to fulfill state-mandated requirements, but rarely has to fill a vacancy, said Ed Scales, a Key West attorney who also serves on the commission.

There are eight judges total in the Keys and the nominating commission has not had to fill a vacancy since 2000 when circuit Judge Luis Garcia was nominated and selected by former Gov. Jeb Bush, Shillinger wrote to The Citizen in an email.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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