Florida Supreme Court orders governor to pick new justice

Judge Renatha Francis would have been first Caribbean-American to serve on Florida Supreme Court

Judge Renatha Francis.
Judge Renatha Francis. (WPLG)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court is ordering Gov. Ron DeSantis to pick a new Supreme Court justice after nullifying his original appointment.

The Court ruled Friday that Judge Renatha Francis is constitutionally ineligible to serve because she hasn’t been a member of the Florida Bar for at least 10 years.

Francis was appointed in May, but doesn’t meet the 10-year-requirement until Sept. 24.

Her appointment was challenged by Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson, a prominent Black state lawmaker.

DeSantis held a news conference earlier this week in South Florida, where he said he believes the lawsuit filed by Thompson is based simply on partisanship and said she had previously voiced her desire to have a Black person on Florida’s Supreme Court, but then filed a lawsuit that would prevent that very thing from occurring.

“Here’s the thing. We have a divided country. Do we need everything to devolve into party and partisan differences?” the governor said. “Can’t we all just step back as Floridians and say, ‘You know what? All of those other candidates would have been good, as well. I think they would have applied the law well, but we have a candidate here who upon taking office is going to serve as an inspiration to so many people.’”

Francis, who was born in Jamaica, is currently a judge for the Florida 15th Circuit Court in Palm Beach County and previously served on the Florida 11th Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County.

“I’m grateful that I’ve had this once in a lifetime opportunity — that a Black immigrant woman of a small island with no famed family name or wealth, no inherited powerful connections could potentially rise to the highest state court in one of the most important states is a testament to just how great this country is,” Francis said on Wednesday.

Francis would have been the first Caribbean-American to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.

According to the Florida Supreme Court’s order, the Constitution gave the governor 60 days from Jan. 23 to fill the vacancy after former Justice Robert Luck resigned. The order states that Francis did not meet the requirements when she was appointed in May and still does not meet the requirements.

“To some, enforcing rules like these might seem needlessly formalistic when the result is to preclude the appointment of an otherwise qualified candidate,” the order stated. “But ‘formalism,’ as Justice Scalia observed, ‘is what makes a government a government of laws and not of men.’”

DeSantis has until Monday to select another appointee.

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