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Crist promotes Labarga to Supreme Court

Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday appointed Jorge Labarga to the Florida Supreme Court, filling his third of four vacancies on the state's highest tribunal. Labarga, 56, of Wellington, is a native of Cuba whom Crist only last week elevated from the circuit court in Palm Beach County to the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

Labarga replaces Harry Lee Anstead, 71, who must step down from the high court because of the state's mandatory retirement age of 70. Labarga is not without controversy: He made some off-the-cuff remarks from the bench in 2007 that raised questions about his judicial temperament.

Crist, as expected, chose Labarga over another Hispanic finalist, Frank Jimenez, a legal advisor to former Gov. Jeb Bush. Jimenez's name was added to the roster of finalists in a controversial 5-4 vote by the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

State Sen. Alex Villalobos, who had protested the way the JNC picked Jimenez, praised the Labarga pick. "It shows the governor followed not just the spirit, but the letter of the law."

-- Steve Bousquet