Judge Renatha Francis No Longer Eligible to Be New Supreme Court Justice

Gonznumber16 | WikiCommons

The Supreme Court of Florida has ordered DeSantis to pick someone else to be Supreme Court Justice. Palm Beach circuit judge Rentha Francis has been deemed not eligible by the Florida Supreme Court. The unanimous ruling said because the state constitution requires 10-year membership in the Florida Bar to be named to the court, Francis didn’t qualify.

Judge Renatha Francis would have been the first Jamaican-American and the only woman and Black justice on the seven-member court, which DeSantis has repeated since the initial appointment in May. 

State representative Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, filed a 24-page lawsuit to the Supreme Court just before midnight on Wednesday, September 9 because Francis does not meet a constitutional requirement to be appointed. Thompson asked the court to have the governor choose another candidate.  In a virtual press conference Thursday, September 10, Thompson criticized DeSantis for not choosing a Black nominee earlier She also criticized state representative Dotie Joseph, D-Miami, a fellow member of the Black Legislative Caucus, for appearing with DeSantis at his Miramar event to support Francis.

“It’s as if to say, if you want a person of color, you’ll take an unqualified person of color and, no, I do not subscribe to that philosophy,” said Thompson of the appointment of Franics by Governor DeSantis in May. While six black lawyers applied for the post, the judicial nominating commission that was hand-picked by DeSantis rejected them all. Francis was the only Black applicant sent to DeSantis for consideration that was approved.

The Supreme Court reiterated in a three-page order Friday said in its previous ruling that Francis doesn’t meet the constitutional requirements to serve.

According to the Florida Constitution, justices must have been members of the Florida Bar for 10 years. The 42-year-old Francis won’t pass that milestone until September 24. After the Florida Supreme Court’s order came out, Francis formally withdrew from consideration. The judge wrote a letter on Friday to DeSantis announcing her withdrawal from the appointment.

“In light of the circumstances, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for the position,” she wrote. “Thank you for your support, and for standing by me throughout this process, for which I am incredibly humbled.”

DeSantis’ lawyers wrote that Thompson is improperly trying to require DeSantis to choose a candidate from among seven other candidates on the list provided by the commission. The document contended that Francis also should remain on the list as a nominee and that the Supreme Court doesn’t have the authority to remove her from the list.

Furthermore, DeSantis’ lawyers argued in an argument filed on Wednesday, September 9 that the May appointment of Franics was an “announcement,” rather than an “appointment.” The governor made note that it was pending Francis would join the court on September 24. Thompson’s own legal response filed late Thursday noted, however, that the governor’s own May 26 news release on Francis stated, “Governor Ron DeSantis Appoints Judge Renatha Francis” and added, “Francis’ appointment fills the vacancy.”

You may view the Florida Supreme court order here.

The Florida Supreme Court has ordered DeSantis to pick a new justice by Monday, September 14.