Robert Luck - Alliance for Justice

Robert Luck

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

  • Court Circuit Court

On September 12, 2019, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Robert J. Luck to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The Senate Judiciary Committee must carefully review Luck’s record before confirming him to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

On September 12, 2019, President Trump
announced his intent to nominate Robert J. Luck to the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the Eleventh Circuit. The Senate Judiciary Committee must carefully review
Luck’s record before confirming him to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.


Luck received his B.A. and law degree from the University of Florida.  He served as a law clerk, and later as a staff attorney, to Judge Edward Carnes of the Eleventh Circuit. Luck spent five years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Florida. In 2013, then-Governor Rick Scott appointed Luck to be a state trial judge, and in 2017 elevated him to the state court of appeals. In January 2019, the same month he took office, Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Luck, along with Barbara Lagoa and Carlos Muniz, to the Supreme Court of Florida.  

is a member of the Federalist Society, and his appointment to the Florida
Supreme Court was “screened” by the group’s executive vice
president Leonard Leo who flew down to Orlando and interviewed Luck for the position.  Less than three weeks after Luck became a
state Supreme Court justice, he was feted at the Florida chapter of the
Federalist Society’s annual event at Disney World’s exclusive Yacht and Beach
Club Resort.

Judicial Record

Several of Luck’s decisions raise
concerns that, as a federal judge, he will side with the wealthy and powerful
at the expense of everyday Americans. 
For example, one of Luck’s first decisions on the state Supreme Court
made it harder for homeowners to defend themselves against banks that were
improperly trying to foreclose on their homes.

January 4, 2019, before Luck and Lagoa joined the court, the Florida Supreme
held, in Glass v. Nationstar Mortgage,
, that homeowners are entitled to attorney’s fees under a mortgage
contract if a bank improperly files a foreclosure action against them.  Florida was a state hit hard by the financial
and housing crisis.  In 2008, more than
40,000 foreclosures were filed in Lee County Florida alone.  Between 2012 and 2017, 16,654 reverse
mortgage holders in Florida went into foreclosure at nearly double the
rate of California, the second-hardest hit state.  And, as the Glass case itself
demonstrates, many foreclosure filings are improper.  This decision was significant because it made
it possible for indigent people facing foreclosure to obtain an attorney to
defend them in court.  

ruling, however, “sent tremors through the
mortgage industry” as it meant homeowners could now mount proper defenses and
be able to recover legal fees from banks that improperly sued them.  Thus, days after Luck, Lagoa and one other
Desantis-appointed judge were sworn in, mortgage giant Nationstar requested a
rehearing; and in April, the Florida Supreme Court, joined by Luck and Lagoa,
withdrew their Glass decision giving the mortgage industry with a huge

one attorney wrote, in an amicus brief, if Nationwide did indeed prevail:

will have free reign. They can file suit no matter who they are, whether or not
they have possession of the original note, because there are no consequences.
There will be no recourse or liability if their ability to enforce the note and
mortgage is disproven. Borrowers will have to pay for representation against
lawsuits that should not have been brought in the first place, with no ability
to be made whole for having to defend such wrongful litigation. Banks’
unfettered ability to sue without any consequence will propel countless new,
unfounded filings and further congest the court system.

Other decisions also raise questions
regarding Luck’s commitment to equal justice. 
For example, in MetroPCS Communications, Inc. v. Porter, while on
the Court of Appeals, Luck reversed
a lower court’s decision to deny a cellphone provider’s request to enforce an
arbitration clause.  In the case, Jorge
Porter brought a class action lawsuit against the company for violating
Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by charging customers sales
tax on the full price of mobile phones purchased using a rebate. The trial
court found that the plaintiff did not have notice of the arbitration clause
that was buried in the terms and conditions of his purchase. On appeal, Luck
found that, because the plaintiff had notice that there were terms and
conditions attached to his purchase, he had notice of the arbitration clause.

In R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v.
, Luck also reversed
a lower court’s decision to grant a new trial in a wrongful death tobacco
case.  After the jury returned a verdict
that R.J. Reynold’s cigarettes were not the legal cause of the plaintiff’s lung
cancer and subsequent death, the trial court found that a defense expert, in
response to question from defense counsel, had improperly told the jury about a
favorable verdict in another case. Luck joined an opinion that reinstated the
verdict for the tobacco company, finding that there was “no reasonable
probability that the objectionable question was so prejudicial” that a new
trial was warranted.

In Martin v. Sowers, Luck would have affirmed a judgment in favor of a doctor who failed to alert his patient that he observed a “suspicious mass” during her mammogram and that there was “a better than 70% probability” that it was cancer. As a result, the woman did not learn that she had breast cancer until almost two years later, when the cancer had spread to her bones. On appeal, the woman argued that the jury had confused the issues it was deciding because the trial judge had denied her motion for summary judgement on the issue of the statute of limitations. The two other judges who reviewed the case on appeal agreed with the woman, finding that the trial judge erred and that the court’s failure to grant her motion “allowed the [defendant] to inadvertently cloud the issues before the jury.” In dissent, Luck wrote, “I cannot say that the statute-of-limitations-defense errors deprived [plaintiff] of due process and a fair trial…”

Luck has also criticized
the longstanding doctrine of tribal immunity. The federal government recognizes
the sovereignty of tribal nations, and immunity from lawsuits is crucial to the
right of indigenous tribes to govern themselves. In a case brought by two
lawyers who accused the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of “filing false lawsuits,
suborning perjury, and obstructing justice,” Luck wrote, “’There are reasons to
doubt the wisdom of perpetuating the doctrine’ of tribal immunity.” He
expressed sympathy for the plaintiffs and noted that tribal immunity “’can harm
those who are unaware that they are dealing with a tribe, who do not know of
tribal immunity, or who have no choice in the matter, as in the case of tort
victims.’” He concluded his opinion by asserting that the plaintiffs deserved a
“proper redress for their injuries,” but that “[g]ranting immunity to Indian
tribes is a policy choice made by our elected representatives.”

Despite his criticism of tribal
sovereignty, Luck did not express similar concern when he upheld
the state legislature’s extension of sovereign immunity to employees of a
private university hospital and upheld the dismissal of lawsuits brought by
Fernando Vallecillo and Latoya Bean. 
Vallecillo was born with a benign tumor on the right side of his face.  He went for an ear-nose-and-throat
consultation, and the doctor recommended an “embolization procedure.”  The surgeon performed the procedure “despite
evidence that Vallecillo was not amen[]able to it.”  “As a result of the surgery,” Vallecillo was
blinded in his right eye.  In a separate
case, Bean’s baby died in childbirth after a doctor gave her medication to
induce labor that was not FDA-approved for that use and that contained a
warning that it could lead to premature birth and birth defects.  After the drug was administered, the baby’s
heartbeat was “non-reassuring,” and Bean had indications of “placental
abruption and/or fetal compromise.”  Yet,
“the doctors waited hours before performing a C-section.”  Noah Bean “required aggressive
resuscitation.” He suffered respiratory failure, and a hemorrhage and died on
the evening of his birth.

In contrast to his opinion in the
tribal immunity case, Luck did not show any remorse in issuing a decision that
denied the plaintiffs’ legal recourse for the injuries they suffered at the
hands of negligent doctors. He concluded that the legislature’s amendment “did
not violate the sovereign immunity, equal protection, due process, access to
courts, jury trial, and private debt provisions of the Florida Constitution.”


The Senate Judiciary Committee should
carefully consider Luck’s record before putting him in a lifetime seat on the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.