On Florida's Most Powerful Bench

The outcome of Florida’s disputed presidential vote could come down to the seven justices of the state“s highest court. Read about the Florida Supreme Court here.

ABCNEWS.com Nov. 20

— Six of the seven justices on the Florida Supreme Court were appointed by Democrats. Legal experts generally consider the court to be moderate and unaffected by partisanship, although some Republicans have criticized it.

Here is a breakdown of the high court justices:

• Chief Justice Charles T. Wells, 61, assumed his duties as justice of the Supreme Court on June 16, 1994, after being appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat. He is known as a straightforward, intelligent justice who is conservative, but not partisan. Wells was a lawyer in private practice before his appointment, not a judge.

• Justice Leander J. Shaw Jr., 70, joined the court in January 1983 as an appointee of Gov. Bob Graham, a Democrat. Shaw served as chief justice from 1990 to 1992 and is considered progressive and liberal. He is well known as the author of a 1989 decision that upheld the right of privacy in abortion cases.

• Justice Major B. Harding, 65, was appointed by Chiles on Jan. 22, 1991. He is considered moderate to conservative and is known for his activism in expanding television and Internet coverage of the court.

• Justice Harry Lee Anstead, 63, was appointed to the court on Aug. 29, 1994, by Chiles. He is known as a justice more willing to take chances with his opinions. Considered liberal to moderate, Anstead was a vocal critic of the electric chair, the method of execution replaced by lethal injection earlier this year.

• Justice Barbara J. Pariente, 51, was appointed as the 77th justice of the Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 10, 1997, by Chiles. She is considered middle-of-the-road to progressive.

• Justice R. Fred Lewis, 52, was appointed to the court on Dec. 7, 1998, by Chiles. He is known as a centrist and, along with Wells, is one of two justices who never served as a judge before his high court tenure. Lewis was a civil- and appeals-court lawyer in Miami.

• Justice Peggy A. Quince, 52, was appointed by the late Gov. Lawton Chiles and Gov.-elect Jeb Bush to the Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 8, 1998. She is the first black woman appointed to the state Supreme Court. Quince is known as a moderate, but leans conservative on criminal justice issues.

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