On May 10, 2019 Justice Barbara Lagoa's Investiture was held at the Florida Supreme Court Building in Tallahassee, FL.
Governor DeSantis Makes His First Appointment to the Florida Supreme Court:
Justice Barbara Lagoa
by D. Bailey Howard
Earlier this year, Governor Ron DeSantis appointed three new Justices to the Supreme Court of Florida to fill the vacancies created by the mandatory retirements of Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince. The first to be appointed was Justice Barbara Lagoa.
Justice Lagoa was born in 1967 in Miami, Florida, after her parents fled Cuba to escape Castro’s dictatorship. She attributes her passion for public service to her parents, who raised her with a strong appreciation for the United States and for the importance of giving back. She grew up in Hialeah, attended Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1989 from Florida International University.
In 1992, after earning her law degree from the Columbia University School of Law in New York, Justice Lagoa returned to her roots and began her practice as an associate in the Miami firm of Morgan Lewis & Bockius. Justice Lagoa continued in private practice for the next eleven years, primarily as a litigator of complex commercial cases ranging from employment discrimination claims to securities litigation and class actions. During this period, Justice Lagoa was part of the pro bono team that represented the family of Elián González. From 2001 to 2003, she was a member of the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission.
In 2003, Justice Lagoa joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida as an Assistant United States Attorney. Beginning in the Civil Division of that office, an assignment in which her practice focused on defending the United States and its agencies in federal tort claims and employment discrimination matters, Justice Lagoa was transferred to the Criminal Division, a position she held for the remainder of her tenure as an Assistant United States Attorney.
In 2006, Governor Jeb Bush appointed Justice Lagoa to Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge David Levy. During her tenure on the Third District, Justice Lagoa authored more than 300 majority opinions and handled more than 11,000 cases. She also received the 2010 Outstanding Women of Color Award, the FIU Medallion of Honor, and has served as a member of the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee since 2011. From 2013 to 2016, Justice Lagoa served on the Florida Supreme Court Committee on Standard Jury Instructions for Contract and Business Cases. She was retained twice by the electorate, and in October 2017 was elected by her colleagues to be Chief Judge of the Third District.
On January 9, 2019, Governor DeSantis appointed Justice Lagoa to the Supreme Court of Florida to fill the vacancy created by the mandatory retirement of Justice R. Fred Lewis. She is the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Court. In a press release announcing Justice Lagoa’s appointment, Governor DeSantis heralded her “proven commitment to upholding the rule of
law, unparalleled legal career and vast experience on the appellate bench.”
Justice Lagoa was formally sworn onto the Supreme Court bench on May 10, 2019, during an investiture attended by family, friends, and colleagues from around the state. Among the speakers was Governor DeSantis, who told the audience that, so secretly had he kept his decision of whom he would appoint, even Justice Lagoa herself only found out the night before the announcement. She had only a few hours to prepare her own remarks. Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Huck—who is also Justice Lagoa’s father-in-law— administered the formal oath of office. The reception following Justice Lagoa’s Investiture was co-hosted by the Historical Society, the Cuban-American Bar Association, and the Dade County Bar Association. In addition to her extraordinarily active professional life, Justice Lagoa has been active in a variety of charitable and community organizations, including the Junior League of Miami, the Board of Directors of the Florida International University Alumni Association, and the Board of Directors for Kristi House, a non-profit organization involved in providing legal, medical, and emotional assistance to child victims of sexual abuse. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Film Society of Miami, and enjoys reading, hiking, cooking, and crafting with her three daughters.
Bailey Howard is a licensed Florida attorney and a graduate of the Florida State University College of Law.
Watch the 5/10/19
on The Florida Channel