Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday appointed a Hillsborough County circuit judge and two Orlando-area circuit judges to seats on the new 6th District Court of Appeal.
DeSantis tapped Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Jared Smith and Judges Jonathan Mize and Keith White of the 9th Judicial Circuit, which covers Orange and Osceola counties.
The Legislature this year approved a plan (HB 7027) that added the 6th District Court of Appeal and revised the jurisdictions of the 1st District Court of Appeal, the 2nd District Court of Appeal, and the 5th District Court of Appeal.
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The changes will take effect on Jan. 1, with DeSantis appointing judges to fill vacant positions amid the shuffling of the courts. The 6th District Court of Appeal, which will be based in Polk County, will hear cases from the 9th, 10th, and 20th judicial circuits — an area that includes Orange, Osceola, Hardee, Highlands, Polk, Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties.
Smith and three other candidates for appointment to the new court drew a legal challenge because they did not live in the 6th District’s jurisdiction.
But the Florida Supreme Court ruled last week that a residency requirement “attaches at the time of appointment,” not when candidates are put forward by judicial nominating commissions.
DeSantis makes appointments from lists of candidates nominated by the commissions. A news release Tuesday from DeSantis’ office listed Smith as being from Lakeland, which is within the new court’s jurisdiction.