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Florida Supreme Court Says Gov. DeSantis Exceeded Authority, But No Remedy For Judicial Appointment

Renatha Francis
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Renatha Francis smiles as she speaks during a news conference, Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at the Miami-Dade Public Library in Miami. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed two South Floridians to the state Supreme Court on Tuesday: Francis, a Palm Beach County circuit judge who immigrated from Jamaica and, a former assistant U.S. attorney who is the son of Cuban immigrants. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis should not have appointed Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Renatha Francis to a vacancy on the state’s high court because she hasn’t been a member of the Florida Bar for at least 10 years. But the court says there’s nothing they can do about it.

DeSantis announced her appointment in May, but Francis won’t be able to serve as a justice until September 24th when she reaches that decade milestone.

Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, challenged the appointment in court, suing DeSantis and the Judicial Nominating Commission that submitted Francis for consideration.

While the court seemed to side with Thompson, the decision said there is no remedy because of the actions Thompson sought.

From the Florida Supreme Court ruling:

“The Governor did 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. But that is 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.

Thompson asks us to invalidate the appointment, require the judicial nominating commission to certify a new list of candidates, and order the Governor to appoint someone from the new list. And 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.

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.”