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Barbara Lagoa: 5 things to know about Trump's potential Supreme Court nominee

Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer
·4-min read
Barbara Lagoa speaks in Miami, Jan. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Barbara Lagoa speaks in Miami on Jan. 9, 2019. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

President Trump is expected to announce Saturday his pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump has vowed to nominate a woman, and is reportedly considering five finalists, including Barbara Lagoa, a 52-year-old federal judge serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Here are five things to know about Lagoa.

She’s from a key swing state

Lagoa was born in Miami, grew up in Hialeah, Fla., and earned her bachelor's degree at Florida International University. She served on the Florida Supreme Court before being appointed to the federal bench. Prominent Florida Republicans have urged Trump to choose Lagoa because they believe she could help the president in his reelection bid in a key swing state. Recent polls show Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in a dead heat in the race for Florida’s 29 electoral votes. (Trump won Florida in 2016, edging out Hillary Clinton by less than 2 percentage points, or about 110,000 votes.)

She’s from a key voting bloc

Lagoa’s background as a Cuban-American could also help Trump, whose campaign has made outreach to Hispanic voters a priority this election cycle. Her parents fled from Cuba following Fidel Castro’s takeover of the country. Lagoa was the first Cuban-American woman to serve on Miami’s appeals court (she was appointed in 2006 by then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush) and the first Hispanic woman on the Florida Supreme Court. She was dubbed by one pollster the “conservative Cuban version of Sonia Sotomayor,” the Supreme Court justice and one of two women currently serving on the nation’s highest court.

Lagoa would be the second Latina, after Sotomayor, to serve on the Supreme Court. And some in Trump’s orbit reportedly believe she could also help the president in Arizona and Nevada, two other swing states with large Hispanic populations.

She represented the family of Elián González

In 2000, Lagoa was one of about a dozen mostly pro bono lawyers who represented a relative of Elián González, the 5-year-old boy found off the Florida coast after his mother had drowned trying to cross over from Cuba.

Lagoa, then an up-and-coming lawyer and Columbia Law School graduate, fought to keep Elián in Miami as the Cuban government pushed for him to be returned to his father in Cuba. Federal agents later raided the family’s home and removed him at gunpoint.

Eliot Pedrosa, a lawyer who worked with Lagoa on the case, said the experience of watching armed federal agents use force to extract Elián was “seared into her soul.”

Barbara Lagoa, (Florida Supreme Court/Handout via Reuters)
Barbara Lagoa. (Florida Supreme Court/Handout via Reuters)

She was confirmed with wide bipartisan support

After Trump nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in 2019, Lagoa was confirmed 80-15, with support from 27 Democrats, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Chris Coons and Joe Manchin. Feinstein is currently the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Lagoa also has conservative bona fides. Like all the judges Trump is considering for the Supreme Court, she is a member of the Federalist Society, a group of conservatives and libertarians who believe in a strict reading of the U.S. Constitution. Trump’s first two appointments to the court, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are also members.

She believes Roe v. Wade is ‘settled law’

Lagoa does not have much of a voting record when it comes to abortion rights. According to Politico, she has had no high-profile rulings on the matter in the nearly 500 decisions she wrote as a state appeals court judge or in other decisions during her brief time on the Florida Supreme Court.

But during the confirmation process for her federal judgeship, she said that she considered Roe v. Wade a “binding precedent of the Supreme Court” and “settled law” — echoing the language used by Gorsuch and Kavanaugh when they were being vetted.

Of course, that doesn’t mean she would stick to the “settled law” principle as a Supreme Court justice.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a Trump ally who has endorsed Lagoa for the high court, told the Washington Post that her Catholic faith “guides her perspective” and that she is “very pro-life.”

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