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Gov. Ron DeSantis’ already strong stamp on the Florida Supreme Court will be even greater for years to come after Justice Ricky Polston retires at the end of this month.

DeSantis will have appointed five of the court’s seven justices when he replaces Polston, who sent DeSantis a three-sentence letter Monday announcing his resignation. He didn’t give a reason for his decision.

Polston, 67, has been one of the court’s most conservative justices since being appointed by then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008. Crist has since become a Democrat, and was criticized by other Democrats while while running for governor last year for appointing Polston to the court.

Justice Polston

Polston has been instrumental in a number of recent Supreme Court decisions that have affected property and liability insurance issues, directly and indirectly. In January, he wrote the majority opinion in Coates vs. R.J. Reynolds, which upheld the slashing of punitive damages against the tobacco company. Polston also penned a 2022 opinion that found that an arbitration clause is binding and that an arbitrator, not a court, can decide when a claim should be handled outside of a court.

He also dissented in a controversial decision that found that insurers’ payments to expert witnesses should be discoverable by plaintiffs. Polston argued that plaintiffs’ lawyers should also be required to reveal their financial relationships with treating doctors — something the Florida Legislature is now considering.

Having five appointees on the court will be a critical fact as DeSantis faces court challenges to a number of laws enacted by his administration, including new abortion restrictions and restrictions on how race and gender issues can be taught in schools.

This year the Legislature is expected to pass bills banning abortions after six weeks, expanding gun rights and restricting the use of pronouns in schools if they differ from the gender a person was assigned at birth. Those and other bills could spur more legal challenges.

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