MIAMI, – The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, exceeded his authority when he appointed the first Jamaican-American judge on the Florida Supreme Court.
In May, DeSantis appointed Justice Renatha Francis to fill the vacancy of former Florida Supreme Court Judge Robert Luck, who now serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Francis, who resides in West Palm Beach, Florida, was expected to officially take her seat on the Florida Supreme Court on September 24, this year.
The Florida Supreme Court, the court of last resort in that state, ruled, in a 5-0 decision, that Judge Francis, a former circuit judge in Palm Beach County, was not eligible to be appointed to the Supreme Court in May because she fell short of the 10-year requirement.
Francis was admitted to the Florida Bar on September 24, 2010, making her tenure with the bar, at the time of DeSantis’s appointment in May, several months short of eligibility to sit on the Florida Supreme Court.
Florida State Democratic Representative Geraldine Thompson had challenged Francis’s appointment, suing DeSantis and the Judicial Nominating Commission that submitted Francis for consideration.
The Florida Supreme Court sided with Thompson, stating that the Governor did, in fact, “exceed his authority in making this appointment.
“In a nutshell, when a governor fills by appointment a vacant judicial office, the appointee must be constitutionally eligible for that office at the time of the appointment,” the court ruled, noting also that it was not the end of the analysis, “because the remedy Thompson seeks is legally unavailable under these circumstances.
“There is no legal justification for us to require a replacement appointment from a new list of candidates, rather than from the one that is already before the governor,” the Florida Supreme Court stated.
Thompson had asked the court to invalidate Francis’s appointment, require the judicial nominating commission to certify a new list of candidates and order the Governor to appoint someone from the new list.
But the court said that “the correct remedy, an appointment from the existing list of eligible nominees, would be contrary to Thompson’s stated objectives in filing this case.
“Therefore, we hold Thompson to the remedy she requested and deny her petition,” ruled the Florida Supreme Court, stating that “it is not enough for the petitioner to establish that the Governor exceeded his authority by appointing Judge Francis.
“To prevail in this action, the petitioner also must have sought proper relief. This is where the petitioner’s case fails.”
Despite the Florida Supreme Court’s finding, Francis’s appointment will become effective on September 24, when she meets the 10-year mandate.
In appointing Francis in May, deSantis said that the judge’s story “demonstrates that anyone who comes to United States has an opportunity to make the most of their God-given talents.”
He noted that before immigrating to Florida, Francis ran two businesses and served as the primary caregiver for a younger sibling in Jamaica.
“After completing her law degree, she advanced to serve on the Miami-Dade County and then the 15th Circuit Court. Starting in September, she will serve as the first Jamaican-American to sit on the Florida Supreme Court, and I know she will serve our state well.”
Judge Francis said she was “incredibly honoured and humbled by this appointment and in the confidence that Governor DeSantis has shown by giving me this tremendous opportunity to serve the people of the great state of Florida.
“As a student of history growing up, I was and remain in awe of the United States Constitution, its freedoms and its respect for the rule of law. I look forward to applying the law as written by the people’s duly-elected representatives, as I serve at the highest level of our state judiciary.”
Francis, who previously served as Judge for the Miami-Dade County Court in 2017, was an attorney for the 1st DCA in Tallahassee, Florida from 2011-2017.
Francis received her bachelor’s degree from the University of The West Indies and her Juris Doctorate, a law degree, from Florida Coastal Law School.