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Florida Supreme Court orders governor to pick new justice

Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP/Capitol News Desk) — The Florida Supreme Court is ordering Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to pick a new Supreme Court justice after nullifying his original appointment.

The Court ruled Friday that Judge Renatha Francis is constitutionally ineligible to serve because she hasn’t been a member of the Florida Bar for at least 10 years. Francis was appointed in May, but doesn’t meet the 10-year-requirement until Sept. 24. She would have been the first Caribbean-American to serve.

Throughout his campaign and once in office, Ron DeSantis railed against activist judges.

“I will only appoint judges who understand that the proper role of the court is to apply the constitution as written,” said DeSantis in January of 2019.

In July, the governor said he was elevating Francis to the state’s high court. But there were two problems: The constitutional deadline for making the appointment was March 23 and on that day, Judge Francis was constitutionally ineligible because of her time as a Florida Bar member.

She remains ineligible even now.

Another irony is that it was Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson, a prominent Black state lawmaker, who filed the successful challenge to the only African American on the nominating list. 

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried calls that a problem.

“So we need to start reexamining the judicial nominating committee and making sure that we have people sitting on these committees, to begin with, that are more diverse,” Fried said.

On Friday afternoon, Democratic State Senator Perry Thurston called for the resignation of the nine-member Judicial Nominating Commission that improperly nominated Judge Francis for the high court.

Thompson, who brought the challenge, said the governor got what he wanted, justices who followed the law and the constitution. 

“The governor says he is a textualist and he wants strict constructionism. Well, that’s what the Florida Supreme Court gave him with this case. Strict constructuralist,” Thompson said.

The governor must now make an appointment from the remaining seven names on the list he was given in January.

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