Wetherell confirmed as federal judge


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (News Service of Florida) – For the second time in less than a month, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed a judge from Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal to serve on the federal bench.

The Senate voted 78-15 to confirm T. Kent Wetherell to serve as a judge in the federal Northern District of Florida. The vote came after the Senate on June 19 confirmed Allen Winsor, who served on the Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeal with Wetherell.

Both were nominated last year by President Donald Trump to serve as federal judges in the Northern district, which hears cases from a region that includes Gainesville, Tallahassee, Panama City and Pensacola. The confirmations followed a string of other approvals of new federal judges in the state and have come as Trump tries to make the federal judiciary more conservative.

“Judge Wetherell has served the state of Florida well for two decades and I am confident he will continue to serve honorably as a federal district court judge for the Northern District of Florida,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “With Judge Wetherell’s confirmation, the Senate has now confirmed seven nominees to Florida’s federal courts since 2018, ensuring our state’s federal judicial system continues to function at the highest level.”

Wetherell, 48, is a Daytona Beach native who joined the state appeals court in 2009. Before that, he worked as an administrative law judge and as a deputy solicitor general in the Florida Attorney General’s Office. He is the son of the late T.K. Wetherell, a former state House speaker and president of Florida State University.

The confirmation came a day after Wetherell took part in a high-profile decision in which a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said a 2017 state law ran afoul of a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida.

Wetherell’s nomination to the federal judgeship drew less attention than Trump’s selection of Winsor, who was confirmed in a 54-44 vote along almost straight party lines. Former Republican Gov. Rick Scott, now a member of the U.S. Senate, appointed Winsor to the 1st District Court of Appeal in 2016.

Winsor’s nomination to the federal bench faced opposition from organizations such as The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which sent a letter to senators last year describing Winsor as a “young, conservative ideologue who has attempted to restrict voting rights, LGBT equality, reproductive freedom, environmental protection, criminal defendants’ rights and gun safety.”

But after the Senate confirmed the nomination last month, Scott issued a statement praising Winsor.

 “Throughout his career, Judge Winsor has demonstrated a respect for the separation of powers and a devotion to the role of the judiciary in our democratic system,” Scott said 

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