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Scott starts process of choosing Supreme Court justice

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott on Friday formally accepted the upcoming retirement of Florida Supreme Court Justice James E.C. Perry, starting the process to select Perry's replacement by the end of the year.

Perry, 72, a former Central Florida circuit judge who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2009 by former Gov. Charlie Crist, announced his Dec. 30 retirement in September.

Perry had reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. But he remained on the court because the state Constitution allows justices to finish their six-year terms if they have completed more than half of the term when they reach retirement age.

"Yours has been a life and legal career devoted to public service," Scott said in a letter to Perry. "As you retire from the bench, I hope you look back on your accomplishments with pride."

Also on Friday, Scott sent a letter to Jason Unger, chairman of the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, asking him to convene the nine-member panel that will recommend candidates to replace Perry.

The nominating commission must recommend at least three names but can recommend up to six candidates. Scott, who will be making his first appointment to the seven-member court, asked for six nominees.

"I strongly prefer submission of the maximum number of nominees (six) for the vacancy," he told Unger.

The commission has announced a Nov. 11 deadline for applications and must forward the nominees to Scott by Dec. 13. Once the applications are collected, the commission will select candidates for interviews before making the final recommendations to the governor.

The candidates, like Perry, must live in Florida's 5th Appellate District, a 13-county region that includes area such as Orlando, Daytona Beach, St. Augustine and Ocala.

Five members of the Judicial Nominating Commission were appointed by Scott: Unger of Tallahassee; Daniel Nordby of Tallahassee; Fred Karlinsky of Fort Lauderdale; Jessie Panuccio of Miami; and Nilda Pedrosa of Pinecrest. The Florida Bar recommended four members who were appointed by Scott: Cynthia Angelos of Port St. Lucie; Hala Sandridge of Tampa; Jeanne Tate of Tampa; and Israel Reyes of Coral Gables.