Judge David Monaco, who’s served on the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach since Jeb Bush appointed him in January 2003, announced his retirement effective June 30. Monaco, a 68-year-old Republican (he’ll be 69 on April 30), wrote Gov. Rick Scott of his decision, though his term doesn’t end until 2013.
The 10 judges of the 5th District Court of Appeal, the final avenue of appeal for 90 percent of the cases that come before them, oversee the decisions of 100 circuit judges in 13 counties, including Volusia and Flagler. Created in 1979, the Fifth District Court of Appeal is one of five state district courts of appeal, just below the state supreme court. Appellate decisions play a large role in shaping the state’s laws.
In December Monaco wrote a concurring opinion in a potentially groundbreaking case involving two lesbians, former partners, who are battling for parental rights of a child they each played a role in conceiving through in vitro fertilization. The fertilized egg of one woman was implanted in the uterus of the other. A 2-1 decision by the court of appeals concluded that current law is inadequate to deal with the issue, though the ruling also determined that the woman who provided the egg has parental rights just as the woman who bore the child does.
“We have arrived at a judicial event horizon,” Monaco wrote in his concurring opinion. “We need legislation to guide us in dealing with the cases that will in the future come before the courts of this state as a result of the combination of the societal changes that we have all witnessed in the years since the relevant statutes were adopted and the still evolving science concerned with human fertility.”
In February, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
A native of Delaware, Monaco is a long-time resident of Ormond Beach. He’s known for his love of painting (he’s an art collector), fly-fishing, wood-carving and the occasional authorship of books, though not the sort that might tempt readers to send them to the bestseller list. (He writes legal tracts for other lawyers and judges.) He got his law degree from the University of Florida in 1968, his undergraduate degree from vanderbilt University in 1965.
He served two years as Chief Judge of the Court and was selected to chair the Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges. He was instrumental in streamlining internal court procedures and, as chairperson of the District Court of Appeal Budget Commission, he guided the court system through a period of fiscal crisis.
Prior to his appellate court appointment, Monaco served five years as a circuit judge in the the Seventh Judicial Circuit, which covers Volusia, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties.
“As Judge Monaco embarks on a new chapter in his life, the entire Court joins to thank him for his dedication to the Court and the imprint he leaves behind,” his former law partner and current colleague on the appellate court, Chief Judge Richard Orfinger, said. “He is well-respected by other judges, staff, and litigants alike and has set a high standard in the appellate arena. Judge Monaco will be missed by all, but we wish him many years of happiness in his retirement.”
A Judicial Nominating Commission will convene to take applications for Monaco’s replacement and will forward three to six names to Governor Scott for his consideration. The nominating commissions are no longer as independent as they were before the Bush era, and are now heavily tilted toward the party in power. It’s not clear when Monaco’s replacement is expected to be named.
In addition to Orfinger and Monaco, the court consists of Judges Jacqueline R. Griffin, Thomas D. Sawaya, William D. Palmer, Vincent G. Torpy, Jr., C. Alan Lawson, Kerry I. Evander, Jay P. Cohen, and Bruce W. Jacobus.