Concerned by reports that Governor Ron DeSantis has backed a nominee with questionable credentials to oversee Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings, Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) on Friday called on the governor to reconsider his support of John MacIver.
“This candidate poses challenges on several levels,” Leader Gibson said. “The governor’s support appears to be rooted more in Mr. MacIver’s allegiance to the Federalist Society than his experience in the courtroom or as a judge – both of which he lacks. The qualifications for overseeing the judicial checks on state agencies and boards should amount to more than just a right-wing club membership.”
The announcement that the Cabinet, by a 3-1 vote, backed the governor’s choice of Mr. MacIver to take over as chief judge of DOAH has drawn controversy from multiple quarters, including former judges and elected officials.
Just a few short years out of law school, Mr. MacIver has already signaled his intent to dismantle a system of jurists that has often stood as the last barrier to political influence in the administrative law process, Leader Gibson noted. In his appearance before the Cabinet, Mr. MacIver parroted talking points from the Federalist Society, begging the question of purity tests for the governor’s judicial candidates.
“Since when did membership in the Federalist Society become the litmus test for administrative law judges?” she asked.
The governor’s preference for Federalist Society judicial candidates has been troubling since his inauguration last year and subsequent nomination of Supreme Court justices with memberships in or ties to the controversial group, Leader Gibson said. The society, consisting of ultra-conservative ideologists, has also become the go-to organization for Republican judicial picks at the federal level, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
“With millions of dollars in state contracts and the smooth operation of state agencies at stake, the top judge at DOAH should offer more than just a membership card and scant legal experience,” said Leader Gibson. “The governor should reopen the search.”