DeSantis court pick improper, but high court won't undo

Legal Events

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis exceeded his authority by appointing a constitutionally ineligible person to the Florida Supreme Court, but the high court said in a ruling Thursday that it won't undo the appointment.

State Rep. Geraldine Thompson asked the court to invalidate the appointment of Judge Renatha Francis because the state constitution requires Supreme Court appointees to have served as a member of the Florida Bar for at least 10 years.

The Supreme Court said Thompson is right that Francis was ineligible for the appointment, but said she asked the court for a remedy that was not legally available, and that it would not undo the appointment on its own.

DeSantis appointed Francis on May 26, but said at the time she would not take office until Sept. 24 when she will have been a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years. The Supreme Court said that's not how appointments of justices work, and the governor is not able to appoint an ineligible justice and hold the position for a future date.

The governor chooses appointees from a list provided to him by the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. Thompson asked the Supreme Court to invalidate Francis's appointment, throw out the list provided by the commission and force the governor to pick an eligible appointee from the new list.

But the court ruled that Thompson waited too long to challenge the list and that the proper remedy would be to have the governor immediately pick an appointee from the original list.

“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,” the court wrote.

Thompson's office did not immediately reply to a phone message and emails seeking comment. DeSantis's office said it was preparing a written statement on the ruling.

If Francis takes her oath next month, she will be the first Caribbean-American to serve on the Florida court.

Francis has served as a circuit court judge since 2017. She operated a bar and trucking company in Jamaica before moving to the United States as an adult after graduating from the University of the West Indies in 2000. Francis graduated from Florida Coastal Law School in 2010.

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