A unanimous Florida Supreme Court ruling on Friday rejected the last-minute appeal by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to appoint Jamaican-American judge Renatha Francis to fill the vacancy in the high court.
The ruling stated that because of the constitutional requirement that a judge be a member of the Florida Bar for at least 10 years in order to qualify for a seat, Francis remains ineligible. Sept. 24 is the date that Francis will meet that requirement.
“Not having been a member of the Florida Bar for ten years, Judge Renatha Francis was constitutionally ineligible for the office of justice of the supreme court on the expiration of the constitution’s sixty-day deadline,” the high court ruling states. “And Judge Francis remains constitutionally ineligible now.”
The ruling stems from a lawsuit that was filed by state Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, who originally wanted to require DeSantis to restart the nomination process from scratch so that it would include a qualified Black candidate. Francis was the only Black candidate on the slate of nine names picked by the Judicial Nominating Commission, a nine-member panel selected by the governor.
At a news conference on September 9, DeSantis had lashed out at the lawsuit by Thomspon, saying the reason that it was filed was simply due to partisanship.
“This particular representative has been someone that has been very vocal about wanting to have a Black Justice on the Supreme Court. Well, guess what, the petition that she has filed would block the Black Justice and force me to pick from the remaining nominees who are all very good, but none of them are gonna be a Black Justice,” he stated.
DeSantis referred to Thompson’s lawsuit as “hypocritical”. He had also gathered support from several local leaders like Broward Mayor Dale Holness and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, who were in favor of Francis’ appointment.
In the meantime, the court has ordered Gov. DeSantis to select a new judge by Monday.
The court order means there won’t be an African-American on the court. Since early 2019, there has been no Black Justice on the bench of Florida’s Supreme Court.