By Jeff Kottkamp
In a first since the Florida Supreme Court was established in 1846, the Court held a joint investiture for its two newest Supreme Court Justices—Robert Luck and Carlos Muñiz. Guests had “an opportunity to witness a moment in Florida history as it happens,” said Chief Justice Charles Canady.
The event was standing room only and had an impressive cadre of guests, including Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Senate President Bill Galvano, the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Ed Carnes, two judges from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida—Rodolfo Ruiz and Frederico Moreno, and two former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of Florida —Major Harding and Steve Grimes, among family, friends, and colleagues from across the state of Florida.
The joint investiture for the 88th and 89th justices was unique for a second reason. Justice Robert Luck had recently been nominated to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit along with Justice Barbara Lagoa.
Governor DeSantis acknowledged that Justice Luck may not be serving on the Florida Supreme Court for much longer. The Governor said he received a call from the White House asking if he would be disappointed if President Donald Trump nominated Justice Luck and Justice Lagoa to serve on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Governor said “absolutely not” and encouraged the White House to put “good people on the Court.” The Governor said Justice Luck and Justice Lagoa should “get ready”because he was told their appointments to the federal bench could be concluded by the end of this year.
Justice Luck’s quick ascension from circuit court to the Florida Third District Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Florida and now to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals was subtly mentioned throughout the remarks of his personal speakers, Judge Rodolfo Ruiz and Chief Judge Ed Carnes. Judge Ruiz greeted everyone by welcoming them “to the annual Robert Luck Investiture.”
Chief Judge Ed Carnes, Justice Luck’s mentor and first boss, had to tweak his remarks, teasing about Justice Luck’s inability to keep a job. He read quotes from some of Justice Luck’s opinions. Those quotes revealed several movie references including an “Animal House” reference in one of Justice Luck’s recent dissenting opinions. In In re: Amendments to the Florida Evidence Code, No. SC19-107 (2019), Justice Luck compared the internal operating procedures of the Court to “the little-known codicil in the Faber College Constitution.”
Governor Ron DeSantis spoke glowingly about the qualifications and intellect of both Justice Luck and Justice Muñiz. But one personal characteristic stood out when he interviewed both men for the Court--humility. That humility was on full display during the investiture as both Justices thanked and gave credit to the family, friends, and mentors who had made their success, and appointment, to the Supreme Court possible.
During his remarks, Justice Luck explained that he and Justice Muñiz decided to have a joint investiture to make it more convenient for the staff that had to plan the event. He also said “they both wondered if either of us could fill the Courtroom” if they had separate investitures.
Justice Luck thanked Governor DeSantis for his appointment to the Supreme Court. He said it is too early to talk about the Governor’s legacy but noted that “at least two kids in the Luck house think you’re the greatest Governor ever.”
Speaking on behalf of Justice Muñiz, Attorney Tim Cerio described the “great intellect and quiet humility” of Justice Muñiz adding “Carlos is a good guy, the white hat, the steady reliable man.” Mr. Cerio also noted the Justice’s impressive resume and his passion for public service.
Chief Justice Charles Canady was emotional as he administered the Oath of Office to Justice Muñiz. The two Justices have known each other for many years. The Chief Justice said, “I have performed no duty in public service that has brought me more joy than administering the oath to Carlos Muniz.”
In his remarks, Justice Muniz was soft-spoken and humble. After thanking his family for “laying the foundation for everything I’ve accomplished in life,” Justice Muñiz said, “professionally, the appointment to the Supreme Court is an honor of a lifetime.” Justice Muñiz said his judicial philosophy is very simple: “people—not the Courts—are in charge.”
The Florida Supreme Court Historical Society and the Dade County Bar Association sponsored a reception following the investiture.