DeSantis installs another conservative on Florida’s Supreme Court

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Sasso, 40, is taking the place of Justice Ricky Polston, who resigned from his position earlier this year and was hired as the new general counsel for Citizens Property Insurance, the insurer of last resort for residents of Florida.

She joins the state Supreme Court as it continues to deal with crucial challenges to DeSantis’ authority and to laws passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature. The court is currently considering a legal challenge to Florida’s existing ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A ruling upholding that ban would then trigger a tighter six-week ban that DeSantis signed into law this year.

Andrew Warren, the Democratic politician and state attorney suspended by DeSantis in August 2022, has also asked the high court to reinstate him to his position. Warren initially filed a lawsuit in federal court, which resulted in a federal judge criticizing the governor’s action but saying he lacked the authority to overturn DeSantis’ actions.

DeSantis has shifted the court rightward during his time in office, starting with three appointments he made when he first became governor because three justices had reached the mandatory retirement age. Two of his choices were later picked by then-President Donald Trump for spots on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“All of them have been rock solid,” DeSantis said about his appointments during a Monday evening speech he gave at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Orlando. “They understand the law and constitution. Judicial activism in Florida is now officially dead. We’ve killed it with these justices.”

Sasso was one of six finalists given to DeSantis for consideration by a state judicial nominating commission. DeSantis, who has praised U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, has kept part of the vetting process for state Supreme Court justices relatively quiet.

DeSantis said in a podcast last year with Hugh Hewitt that he relied on “six or seven pretty big legal conservative heavyweights” when selecting nominees. But even during that podcast, DeSantis declined to say who is advising him. A public records lawsuit has been filed to seek that information, but the governor’s office is fighting it.

Sasso, a graduate of the University of Florida law school and a member of the conservative Federalist Society, had worked as an assistant general counsel for former Gov. Rick Scott before Scott appointed her to the 5th District Court of Appeal in 2019. She was shifted over to the newly created 6th District Court of Appeal in Lakeland late last year.

Among the references Sasso listed were former Justice Alan Lawson, Nick Primrose, a former deputy general counsel for both Scott and DeSantis, as well as Ben Gibson, who has represented the Republican Party of Florida and the Republican National Committee in election-related litigation.

“I am incredibly honored that Governor Ron DeSantis is entrusting me with this position,” Sasso said in a statement. “The judiciary plays a critical and unique role in our constitutional government, and I am resolutely committed to upholding the rule of law for as long as I am privileged to serve.”

Sasso is married to Michael Sasso, an Orlando attorney who DeSantis appointed to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the state-created board that is now locked in a legal battle with Disney over control of thousands of acres that the entertainment company owns. Sasso also listed Glen Gilzean, who was hired earlier this month to serve as the district administrator, as a reference on her judicial application.

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