Chief Supreme Court Justice Carlos G. Muñiz Gives Advice to FSU Law Students

by Karen Custer
Photo by Karen Custer Photo by Karen Custer

PANAMA CITY, FL - Justice Carlos G. Muñiz was introduced as a warm and caring person, as he prepared to speak to FSU Law students on March 18th. He described the Supreme Court as “very much a family.”

Justice Muñiz was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by Governor Ron DeSantis on January 22, 2019, and became Chief Justice on July 1, 2022. He graduated from the University of Virginia and Yale Law School, then went on to clerk for Judge José A. Cabranes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Judge Thomas A. Flannery of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Justice Muñiz lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Katie Muñiz, and their three children, having grown up in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. After moving here, he fell in love with the state.

He teaches a class most semesters and spoke about being committed to open dialogue and civic engagement, free speech, civility, and mutual respect, which he said is something you can not take for granted at other universities around the country.

Regarding becoming an attorney, he recommends that students, “pursue it for the right reasons.” He said that one of the great things about going to law school and pursuing a career as an attorney is that there’s such a wide variety of things that you can choose to focus on.” He added, that hopefully, you have a passion for the principles that our country was founded on in the Constitution and that you are thoughtful about what our ideals are. “It’s intellectually demanding. Any path that you take in the Law is kind of service-oriented whether you’re with a firm or working in government.”

Justice Muñiz explained that historically, the position of Chief Supreme Court Justice automatically rotated every two years based on seniority. The rules changed about 10 years ago, but it is still somewhat driven by seniority. The State Constitution requires that the Chief Justice be chosen from among the people on the Court, with terms lasting two years, and with a maximum of eight years.

He said that matters of the Court are decided by majority vote, but if you’re Chief, you deal with communication to and from the Court and you have a lot more communication with other folks in the branch, with the best part of the job being getting more involved with people in the branch and across the state. Justice Muñiz explained that you have a huge amount of autonomy, but since the Supreme Court is a coordinating body, a policy-making body, we can prioritize the needs of the branch as a whole, speak with one voice in the Legislature, and try to get as much uniformity in the system as possible.

He recommends that students have as much of a service mentality as possible, and that they remember that they’re here to, “Serve The People.”