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Rep. Geraldine Thompson Calls New Justice Renatha Francis' Appointment Unconstitutional

Blaise Gainey
State Rep. Geraldine Thompson speaks on her lawsuit claiming new Justice Renatha Francis's appointment was ineligible.

A state lawmaker says one of Florida’s newly appointed supreme court justices isn’t qualified for the job. Windermere Democratic Representative Geraldine Thompson is suing Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s judicial nominating commission because she says the appointment of Justice Renatha Francis is against the rules.

When Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Justice Francis to the Florida Supreme Court it was big news.

"Judge Francis will be the first Caribbean American to sit on the Florida Supreme Court," DeSantis said.

For DeSantis, this was an appointment that kept true with a promise he made to keep the court diverse.

“I’ve had the privilege to make 5 appointments to the Florida Supreme Court 4 of those 5 appointments have come from South Florida," said DeSantis. "Two of the appointments have been women, three of the appointments have been Hispanic.”

Windermere Democratic Representative Geraldine Thompson applauds the governor’s effort to create a diverse court, but say Francis never should have been nominated for the job because she hasn’t been a member of the Florida Bar for at least 10 years.

“The law, according to the Florida Constitution, indicates that no person is eligible for The Florida Supreme Court unless that individual is and has been for the preceding ten years a member of The Florida Bar," said Thompson.

Francis will not meet that requirement until September 24. She won’t start serving until then, but Thompson says that doesn’t matter. She argues the judicial nominating commission acted against the constitution and its own rules when it added Francis’s name to a list of nominees that went to the governor. But that’s something the commission already considered. During the JNC’s interview, Francis was questioned about her eligibility.

Her reply: "The way that I read The Constitution and the text of the ten-year clause it does not prohibit me from having eligibility to apply and be nominated."

Francis says what matters is when the justice actually takes office.

"The text of the ten-year clause as I’ve read it sets out the requirements for eligibility to serve," said DeSantis. "Which would happen at the time you take the commission and then receive the commission and then take the office."

Thompson disagrees and is currently waiting on the Governor’s response.

"The Governor has until August 3 to respond to my complaint and then I will reply by August 13 to whatever response he puts forward," said Thompson.

Thompson says if she wins the lawsuit, she would like the Governor to replace Francis with one of the six people of color who are on the list forwarded to him by the JNC.

"If he wants to achieve the commitment to diversity, he has six African Americans he could appoint to the Florida Supreme Court," said Thompson.

Thompson is a veteran member of the Florida Legislature, having served over 15 years. She says she is trying to stand by the oath she took to uphold the constitution. That’s why she says she chose to intervene on what she believes is a clear violation.