For Supreme Court, Two South Florida Judges Coulda Been Contenders

Sotomayor and Obama
Sotomayor and Obama
Photo courtesy Official White House Photostream

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Gov. George W. Bush vowed that if elected, he would nominate a Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. It certainly didn't hurt his popularity in Florida's Latin American community, and that was a race close enough where little things made a world of difference.

Of course, he didn't follow through on that promise, among many others, and today Barack Obama made that milestone his own, nominating Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. A missed opportunity not just for Bush but for a Republican Party that's lately squandered Hispanic votes. But it's a particularly bittersweet moment for two judges in South Florida.

The current Chief Judge of U.S. District Court in South Florida, Federico Moreno was among the names submitted to the Bush administration by the Hispanic National Bar Association in 2005, when the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist created one vacancy and the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor created another. Another Florida judge with South Florida roots, Miami's Raoul Cantero -- then the Chief Justice of the state's Supreme Court -- was on the same list, and had the extra advantage of having been a favorite of Jeb Bush, who made Cantero the first Hispanic judge to rule the state's highest court. Both were on pundits' lists as possible nominees.

Instead, Bush chose Judge John Roberts. Then, in a moment of political cronyism that still seems like a sick joke, he picked White House Counsel Harriet Miers, whose nomination was just as quickly withdrawn and replaced with Judge Samuel Alito.

The Miami Herald just got a soundbite from Cantero, who sounds skeptical about the Obama administration's interest in a judge with "empathy."


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