Barbara Lagoa, a 52-year-old Cuban American conservative federal judge from Florida, sits with Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana near the top of Donald Trump’s list of possible picks to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the supreme court.
Lagoa is quite new to her position on the Atlanta-based 11th US circuit court of appeals, one step below the supreme court. She was appointed by Trump in December 2019, having received overwhelming Senate approval.
Lagoa was appointed to the Florida state supreme court the previous January, by Governor Ron DeSantis, a close ally of Trump, as his first official act. She was appointed to her previous state role by Governor Jeb Bush, in 2006.
Florida is a crucial swing state in the presidential election, the Hispanic vote a target constituency for Trump across the country. The president trails Democratic challenger Joe Biden among such voters but has been gaining ground.
Speaking to Fox News on Monday morning, Trump was asked if politics was part of his decision-making process.
“I try not to say so,” he said. “I think, automatically, it is.”
Lagoa recently joined a major ruling that struck a blow to voting rights in Florida, reversing a decision that struck down a law requiring people with serious criminal convictions to pay all fines and legal debts before regaining the right to vote. Such laws disproportionately disadvantage Black voters.
Lagoa is a member of Florida’s large, influential and largely conservative Cuban American community, her parents having fled Cuba after Fidel Castro’s communist revolution. She grew up near Miami, graduated from Florida International University and studied law at Columbia University, Ginsburg’s alma mater, in New York, NBC reported.
In 2000, Lagoa provided free legal services to US-based relatives of Elián González, a Cuban boy whose plight after his mother drowned while fleeing the island became an international story. Elián was eventually sent back to his father.
If confirmed, Lagoa would be the second Hispanic justice on the supreme court, following the New York liberal Sonia Sotomayor, who was nominated by Barack Obama.