Log in

DeSantis appoints Apopka lawyer to appellate court


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Apopka lawyer Roger Gannam to fill a vacancy in an Orlando-area appellate court Thursday, but critics and LGBTQ+ groups question his impartiality for the job.

Gannam will fill the judicial vacancy on the Sixth District Court of Appeal created by Justice Meredith Sasso after DeSantis appointed her to the Florida Supreme Court in May.

Last December, DeSantis made three judicial appointments to the same court to fill vacancies created by House Bill 7027, which created the sixth appellate district and changed the number of judges of each district court of appeal.

Roger Gannam
Roger Gannam

Gannam grew up in Jacksonville, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Florida and a law degree from the University of Florida, and was a partner at Lindell & Farson.

Since July 2016, he served as the assistant vice president of legal affairs at Liberty Counsel, a conservative nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization.

Critics raised concerns over Gannam’s impartiality as a judge, given his advocacy work for the Liberty Counsel. The Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Liberty Counsel as a hate group for its views against the LGBTQ+ community.

According to its website, Liberty Counsel is dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values. It has offices in Florida, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

The appointment also received backlash from Florida Democrats. Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried called the appointment outrageous.

“After Ron threw out a democratically elected State Attorney this week, he has continued his crusade to consolidate the courts and stack the judicial bench with activist judges like Roger Gannam, who has a long history of attacking women’s rights and the LGBTQ+ community,” she said in a statement released Friday.

“He would never be appointed to a federal bench,” she continued. “How can the people of Florida seriously expect a fair and impartial hearing when he can’t even answer a question about his own biases? He should be nowhere near a courtroom — in Florida or anywhere else.”

Fried refers to when Gannam answered “N/A,” not applicable to a question asking whether he would be biased on issues that came before the court, according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report.

Gannam applied for the vacant Florida Supreme Court seat, now held by DeSantis-appointed Sasso.

Gannam declined The Apopka Voice’s request for an interview.

The judicial nominating commission later interviewed Gannam while considering him for the vacant seat in May. The commission asked how Gannam would transition from his advocacy work to serving as a justice.

“I look at all people as being created in God’s image. They all are owed my impartiality. No one, because of what they believe, should find themselves any more or less valuable to me,” he said to the commission. “I’m committed to getting the law right. That’s true no matter who it is before me.”

Gannam applied for trial court positions in the fourth circuit in 2011 and 2012 but hasn’t applied for judicial office in the state in the last decade. He never lost the desire to enter judicial service but took up public interest law that led to working his dream job full time in religious liberty and constitutional litigation, he said to the commission.

Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver commended DeSantis’s decision in a statement Saturday.

“Governor Ron DeSantis has made an excellent choice in appointing Roger Gannam to serve on the Sixth District Court of Appeal,” Staver wrote. “Since 2014, Roger has been a vital member of Liberty Counsel’s legal team. Roger is committed to the rule of law.”

Gannam was part of the Liberty Counsel legal team that won a unanimous 9-0 decision last year in the U.S. Supreme Court case Shurtleff v. City of Boston. The Court ruled the city violated a Christian group's free speech rights when it denied their request to raise a Christian flag at City Hall despite a city program that allowed groups to fly its flags outside city hall.

During a conservative Christian news show interview in June, Gannam criticized the Biden Administration for flying a pride flag at the same height as the American flag outside the White House during Pride month.

“I think it's a travesty that the one building that really kind of represents our American government to much of the world – the White House – would choose to not only fly a pride flag but do it in a way that government regulations clearly show is improper,” he said. “It relegated the United States flag to a secondary position under or next to the pride flag.”

“Flying a pride flag is really sending a message to America's Christians and many adherents of other faiths that their viewpoint about human sexuality is not welcome or celebrated, but a very particular LGBT viewpoint is celebrated,” he continued.

Gannam also wrote an op-ed for the Florida Times-Union opposing a Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance in 2015.

The ordinance would allow male predators to use the legal cover of female identity to gain unchallenged access to women’s bathrooms and dressing rooms, he wrote.

In 2017, he testified against a proposed human rights ordinance that would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under Jacksonville’s city law. 

Because Gannam is filling a vacancy, he will remain in the seat for the remainder of the term.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Apopka, Roger Gannam, Liberty Counsel, Sixth Appellate District