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Jorge Labarga to repeat as state’s chief justice

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Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga has been re-elected by his colleagues to serve a second two-year term, the first justice to serve two consecutive terms as chief since the end of the Civil War, according to a Friday news release.

“It is a privilege to serve the people of Florida,” Labarga said. “My second term will continue the work started during the first – especially the efforts of the Access to Civil Justice Commission and implementation of both our new long-range plan and the first comprehensive statewide communications plan developed for the state courts system.”

The court changed its rules in 2012 to allow chief justices to serve successive two-year terms up to eight years, spokesman Craig Waters said: “In an opinion at the time, the court said that this amendment was meant ‘to strengthen the chief justice’s leadership role and allow for needed continuity in leadership.’ “

Labarga, 63, came to Florida at age 11 after the Cuban revolution and settled in Palm Beach County. He eventually attended the University of Florida, receiving both his undergraduate and law degrees there.

Gov. Lawton Chiles first appointed him to the Circuit Court in Palm Beach County in 1996. Labarga was one of several trial judges across the state involved in the 2000 presidential election challenge in Florida.

In December 2008, Gov. Charlie Crist tapped him for the 4th District Court of Appeal. The next month, Crist moved him to the Supreme Court. Labarga is the first chief justice of Hispanic descent, and the state’s 56th chief justice.

Labarga, who got his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida, underwent the operation at Shands Hospital in Gainesville this week.

Last year, Labarga was diagnosed with kidney cancer following a routine physical. He underwent surgery at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Doctors found no sign the cancer had spread.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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