TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court blocked Renatha Francis' appointment to the state’s high court Friday, ruling her ineligible for the job, and halting Gov.
DeSantis tapped Francis in May to fill one of two vacancies, and he went on to highlight the Palm Beach County judge, a Black woman born in Jamaica, as evidence of his commitment to adding diversity to the court.
But Francis, who would have been the only sitting Black justice, quickly came under scrutiny because she had not been a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years, a requirement in the state constitution.
The lawsuit was filed in July, but the political mad scramble did not kick off until after a Tuesday ruling where the court gave DeSantis one day to convince them they should not order him to pick a new justice.
That included Haiti-born House Democrat Dotie Joseph, who supported Francis becoming the first Caribbean-born justice on the Florida Supreme Court.
One day later, Thompson hit back, unloading on DeSantis for what she said was a disingenuous effort to paint critics opposed to the Francis pick on constitutional grounds as opposing a Black woman being appointed to the court.
She noted that there were six constitutionally qualified black judges who applied for the two vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court, but Francis was the only one forwarded to DeSantis by the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, which is tasked with recommended a slate of judges the governor must pick from.
The court also addressed critics who believe the 10-year bar membership provision in the Florida constitution is arbitrary and should not be a reason to toss a Florida Supreme Court appointee.
The court’s Friday ruling went on to needle the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, the body tasked with crafting a slate of judges for the governor to pick from.
The ascendant conservative jurist knee-capping the legal defense of the governor who appointed him sparked a full court press messaging effort from DeSantis and his allies, who sought to amplify the historic nature of putting someone with Francis' heritage on the state's highest court
“@GovRonDeSantis came out in support of women, immigrants and Black Florida residents like Jamaican American Judge Renatha Francis who is his pick for the @FlCourts,” tweeted Helen Aguirre Ferré, the Florida GOP executive director who until recently was DeSantis’ communication director, on Wednesday
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