Judge Jamie R. Grosshans, Ninth Circuit. Photo: www.theledger.com
Governor Ron DeSantis named Judge Jamie R. Grosshans from Winter Garden of the Daytona Beach-based 5th District Court of Appeal to the state high court on Monday, September 14. DeSantis made his selection at 5 p.m., the same time as a court-ordered deadline imposed by the Florida Supreme Court after the governor missed the first deadline. The 5th District includes Lake, Marion and Sumter counties. The governor’s initial pick, Palm Beach County Judge Renatha Francis, to the Florida Supreme Court was declared constitutionally ineligible to serve by the state Supreme Court.
The Florida Supreme Court ordered DeSantis to appoint another judge by September 14, nullifying the appointment of Judge Renatha Francis, but after DeSantis did not make another appointment by noon, the high court issued a writ of mandamus ordering him to do so by 5 p.m. A (writ of) mandamus is an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion.
Under Florida law, the term “mandamus” is defined as a remedy to command performance of a ministerial act that the person deprived has a right to demand, or a remedy where public officials or agencies may be coerced to perform ministerial duties that they have a clear legal duty to perform.
On Friday, September 11, the court ordered the governor “immediately to appoint and commission a constitutionally eligible nominee from among the seven remaining candidates already certified by the judicial nominating commission.” During the news media appearance, DeSantis said he had called Grosshans on Sunday to let her know she was appointed. The rejection of Francis and the admonition of DeSantis was unusual for the Supreme Court.
The furor over Francis began when state Representative Geraldine Thompson, a Democrat from Windermere, filed a lawsuit in July accusing the governor of violating the Constitution by appointing a candidate to the state’s highest court who wasn’t yet eligible.
The state constitution requires that a justice be a member of the Florida Bar for at least 10 years, and Francis was four months shy when DeSantis appointed her in May. DeSantis acknowledged the shortfall at the time, but said she wouldn’t be sworn in until September 24, the day she would meet the requirement.
Grosshans was appointed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal (DCA) in 2018 by then-Gov. Rick Scott. She previously served in the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida in Orange County, where she presided over criminal and civil matters. Grosshans, 41, is a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, serving as an officer in its Central Florida chapter. She graduated from the University of Mississippi Law School and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 2006.
In her legal career, Grosshans has served as a clerk with the Civil Rights Division of the Mississippi School of Law and was named an Orange County judge in 2017 by DeSantis’ predecessor, Rick Scott, who chose her for the 5th DCA one year later.