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DeSantis Attacks Thompson Over Lawsuit Against Supreme Court Pick

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)

Governor Ron DeSantis faces a major legal problem of his own making, as the Florida Supreme Court is allowing a Democratic lawmaker to challenge the governor's selection of a new justice to the court, claiming she is not legally qualified. The case has strong racial overtones, and DeSantis went to South Florida Wednesday to defend his choice and attack his critics.

The Republican governor's chief of staff, Shane Strum, urged local Caribbean political leaders -- many of them Democrats -- to publicly show support for Renatha Francis, a naturalized U.S. citizen who would be the first Caribbean justice in Florida. At a press conference in Miramar, DeSantis criticized a lawsuit challenging Francis' selection, filed by a Black Democrat: Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando.

"This particular representative is somebody that has been very vocal about wanting to have a Black justice on the Florida Supreme Court," DeSantis said. "Guess what? The petition she has filed right now would prevent a Black justice. To me, that's the hypocrisy that so many people are sick and tired of."

Francis has been a state judge in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. DeSantis appointed her in May, but she could not take office until September because she had not been a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years. If DeSantis loses the case, it will be a major political setback for him. Joining the governor Wednesday were Broward Mayor Dale Holness, Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam who briefly ran for president, and Rep. Dottie Joseph of North Miami.