Lagoa and DeSantis
Judge Barbara Lagoa speaks as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis looks on during a press conference in Miami, Florida on January 9, 2019.
Joe Raedle/Getty

U.S. Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa, one of President Donald Trump’s top potential replacements for deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has a firmly conservative legal philosophy that she says is not driven by her Catholic faith.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis named Lagoa to the Florida Supreme Court in January 2019, making her the first Hispanic Woman and the first Cuban American woman to be appointed to the court. In the year before her 1967 Miami birth, her family fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba, where she said her father had been forced to “give up his dream of becoming a lawyer.”

“In the country my parents fled, the whim of a single individual could mean the difference between food or hunger, liberty or prison, life or death,” Lagoa said during a press conference with DeSantis. “In our great country and our great state, we are governed by the rule of law, the consistent and equal application of the law to all litigants regardless of a judge’s personal preferences.”

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Lagoa said her Catholic faith has been strong from an early age. She credited the choice of her parents in sending her to Catholic school for reinforcing “an abiding faith in God that has grounded and sustained me through the highs and lows of life.”

Lagoa was nominated to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals by Trump after less than a year on the Florida Supreme Court. She was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 80-15, before taking her place at the court in December 2019.

Like all five of the U.S. Supreme Court’s current conservative justices, Lagoa is a member of the conservative Federalist Society. She is an advocate of originalism, the legal philosophy that the Constitution should be interpreted strictly based on what the document’s authors intended at the time it was written.

“I think it is important, when you’re looking at the Constitution, to see what the original public meaning or the understanding of that particular phrase meant, or the particular word,” Lagoa said during her Senate hearing after being nominated to the federal court last year.

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“The principles that were articulated in the Constitution at the time of ratification have a meaning,” she added. “That meaning is constant. What changes is the application of that meaning to new things.”

Although Lagoa is clearly a conservative, her position on the key issue of abortion is not entirely clear. She has not ruled on any related cases and has spoken of it little publicly, although during her confirmation process she said that the issue is “settled law” and represented a “binding precedent on the Supreme Court.”

Earlier this month, Lagoa was one of the 11th circuit judges that formed a 6-4 majority to overturn a lower court ruling that invalidated a Florida law requiring formerly incarcerated felons to pay outstanding fines and fees before being allowed to vote.

She was criticized by many for refusing to recuse herself in the case, having previously been involved in the case at the state level during her time on the Florida Supreme Court.

Florida Republicans have actively lobbyied Trump to nominate Lagoa, according to Politico. Trump is said to be strongly considering her for the position in the belief that she could help boost his reelection chances in the state, where most polls have shown him in a dead heat with Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

The president touted Lagoa’s Florida roots and Hispanic heritage during a Monday morning Fox News appearance.

“She’s excellent, she’s Hispanic, she’s a terrific woman from everything I know,” Trump said on Fox and Friends. “I don’t know her. Florida, we love Florida. So, she’s got a lot of things. Very smart.”