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Cantero to represent panel in Supreme Court dispute

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission unanimously agreed Friday to have former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero defend the commission in a lawsuit that challenges Gov. Rick Scott’s authority to appoint three new members of the high court.

The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause filed the lawsuit Thursday, after Scott initiated the Judicial Nominating Commission process to move forward with replacing justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who will be forced to leave the Supreme Court in January because of a mandatory retirement age.

The Supreme Court has given the defendants --- Scott, the Judicial Nominating Commission and commission Chairman Jason Unger --- until Wednesday to file a response to the complaint, which asks the justices to block Scott from moving forward with the replacements.

During a conference call Friday, Unger said that Cantero agreed to represent the commission pro bono. Cantero will be assisted by George Levesque, a lawyer who works with Unger at the GrayRobinson firm in Tallahassee.

“Frankly, I think that having both George Levesque involved and Raoul Cantero involved is very beneficial to the process,” Unger told the panel before the unanimous vote.

The lawsuit stems from a long-running debate about whether Scott or his successor will have the power to appoint replacements for the departing justices.

Scott’s term will also expire in January.