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Florida Supreme Court Sets Monday Deadline For Governor To Appoint New Justice

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a committee meeting
Andrew Harnik

Governor Ron DeSantis has until Monday to appoint a new justice to the Florida Supreme Court. It’s a blow for the Governor, who has been defending his appointment of Renatha Francis. But Francis has not been a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years—a job requirement. The case has racial overtones and has seen DeSantis attempting to pit Black Democrats against each other over the pick after Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Thompson sued.

DeSantis’s first choice, Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge Renatha Francis, is ineligible — both at the time of her appointment and still today. She won’t fulfill the requirement to be a Florida Bar member for 10 years until later this month.

Francis would have been the first Caribbean justice on the state’s high court, which currently has no Black representation. That’s something Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s wanted to do with Francis’ appointment. But Thompson doesn’t believe him.

"The Governor had an opportunity to appoint multiple African Americans to the Florida Supreme Court," she said. "When the opening came up in 2019 he appointed two white individuals, Justice Luck and Justice Lagoa. He could’ve appointed two African-Americans then."

DeSantis has criticized Thompson's lawsuit saying it is what stopped the diversification of the court.

"This particular representative is somebody that has been very vocal about wanting to have a Black justice on the Florida Supreme Court," he 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."

Thompson disagrees.

"That is the one disappointing thing in this whole matter."

Thompson’s first attempt to unseat Francis included a remedy that would have the judicial nominating commission forward African- American applicants to the Governor, but the court denied it, saying DeSantis was bound to choose one of the remaining choices that were already nominated.

"She was the only African-American on the list they eliminated every single other African-American even though they were highly qualified and eligible," said Thompson. "They eliminated six African-Americans and put forward the only one who was ineligible to serve."

There are seven remaining nominees on the list that was sent to the governor in January.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.