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JNC surprise: Second Hispanic in running for Supreme Court

Gov. Charlie Crist started to quiet criticism over a Cuban-American lawyer's nomination for a Supreme Court seat by saying Tuesday that he'll consider another candidate, Judge Jorge Labarga, for the seat as well.

Labarga appeared out of the running for the high court after Crist earlier this month selected him for a seat on the Fourth District Court of Appeal. Crist then asked the Judicial Nominating Commission to send him a list with more ''diversity'' for the Supreme Court.''

Crist's request triggered suspicion that he wanted politically connected lawyer Frank Jimenez for the seat. After a contentious nominating meeting where some members questioned Crist's motives, Jimenez made the list.

Then, on Monday, a group of 17 high-powered lawyers sent a letter to the Judicial Nominating Commission protesting its meeting. The lawyers accused the commission of running ''afoul of the letter and spirit'' of the law. It changed its rules on a 5-4 vote and cast voice votes.

Asked if the lawyers' complaint had merit, Crist, a lawyer as well, said ``I don't think so. I'll leave that to the judicial branch.''

Crist said Tuesday that he considered Labarga a contender for the high court. His interview is scheduled tentatively for Wednesday.

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