By Mark D. Killian
Gov. Charlie Crist has appointed Charles T. Canady to the Florida Supreme Court and – if court precedent holds – the Yale law school graduate and former congressman will become chief justice in two years.
Judge Canady, 54, is Gov. Crist’s first appointment to the seven-member court. The Second District Court of Appeal judge and Lakeland native fills the vacancy left by Justice Raoul Cantero, who has served on the Florida Supreme Court since 2002.
“I consider this to be one of the most important decisions I will make as governor, because the Supreme Court justices make precedent-setting decisions that affect the lives of all Floridians for generations to come,” Crist said in making the appointment August 28 on the steps of the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee. “I am confident Judge Canady will rule from our state’s highest bench with wisdom, fairness, and humility. He has shown throughout his career the courage to make rulings that are fair and just.”
Canady has since 2002 served on the Second DCA. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1979 and went on to a career in public and private practice, working for law firms including Holland & Knight and Greenberg Traurig. Canady served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1984 to 1990 and was then elected in 1992 to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he represented his home district of Lakeland until 2000.
“It is an honor to be appointed to such an important post,” said Canady, who was in Tallahassee with his wife and two children. “I am grateful to have the confidence and support of Gov. Crist, and I will work to uphold the Florida Constitution and our justice system.”
As the court, and the state as a whole, continues to struggle in these austere financial times, Canady said he will work to keep open the lines of communication with the other branches of government.
“I think it is important that the judiciary has a constructive working relationship with the other two braches as we go through these challenging times and I will strive as a member of the court to help ensure there is always a constructive working relationship among the branches and that there is clear communication.”
Canady, who lived in Tallahassee when he served as general counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush from 2001 to 2002, plans to relocate his family to the capital city and remain on the court “for the rest of my working life,” as long as the people see fit to retain him.
“Gov. Crist has made a wise decision,” said Jacksonville’s Howard Coker, a past president of The Florida Bar and the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, now the Florida Justice Association. “Judge Canady is eminently qualified to serve. Having personally reviewed Judge Canady's decisions on the Second District Court of Appeal, I can say that he has set a high standard of fairness, humility, and respect for the law. His proven track record of leaving politics and personal ideology out of his judicial decisions demonstrates the level of professional integrity he will bring to the bench. He will be a great asset to the court.”
“The governor has again shown his commitment to the legal community in appointing Judge Canady,” said Marlene Quintana of Miami, president of the Cuban American Bar Association. “Like Justice Cantero, Judge Canady is an intellectual jurist with unquestioned integrity. Judge Canady is a longtime public servant and will surely add his wisdom and years of experience to the court. We congratulate him and look forward to his many years of service to the people of Florida.”
Crist, who said he has known Canady for a very long time, described him as kind, compassionate, fair, and brilliant.
“Judge Canady’s breadth of legal experience makes him an ideal choice for this post,” said Gov. Crist. “I am confident he will have the courage to make decisions that uphold our Constitution and the justice that every Floridian deserves.”
Canady is the first of two new justices Crist will appoint this year. The governor still must replace retiring Justice Kenneth Bell. The Supreme Court’s Judicial Nominating Commission has put forth Judge Ricky L. Polston, 52, Tallahassee, First District Court of Appeal; Judge Waddell A. Wallace III, 55, Jacksonville, Fourth Judicial Circuit; and Judge Peter D. Webster, 59, Tallahassee, First District Court of Appeal to fill that opening.
Crist also will make two more Supreme Court appointments early in 2009 as Justice Harry Lee Anstead and Justice Charlie Wells step down when they reach the mandatory retirement age of 70.