WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis made what his office called a “major announcement” while in West Palm Beach, Friday, at the Richard & Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum. At the event, DeSantis appointed Judge Renatha Francis to the Florida Supreme Court.
The event opened “with a word of prayer,” before DeSantis spoke.
He opened with similar statements to his speech in Hillsborough County on Thursday, saying that the United States and state of Florida was a government of laws, not of men, saying it means nobody gets to impose their will outside of the system, and above the rule of law.
“What we have seen for many, many decades is judges that have taken power away from people’s elected representatives, and they have legislated from the bench,” DeSantis said. “And that’s not their role, their role is to apply the law and Constitution as it’s written. I deal with the legislature, we have a good relationship, but you know the legislature doesn’t always do great laws, sometimes they don’t work out as a matter of policy. But that’s not the judge’s job to sit there as a council of revision and change the law.”
DeSantis said it was the people’s job to elect representatives to change the law as they see fit, and that it was the role of the court to discharge the duties that they are given by the Constitution, and within those confines.
“It’s critical that you do have an independent judiciary, that can decide cases and controversies,” DeSantis said. “There are times when things come before a court and somebody’s been aggrieved, and that court’s gotta render a judgement, and that law or that issue may violate the Constitution and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
DeSantis said those types of decisions make the system stronger.
“But when you take off that judicial robe, and then you act like a quasi-politician, you’re not accountable in the same way that an elected official is, and it really distorts the Constitution,” DeSantis said. He then referred back to what he called “rogue prosecutors” who put their idea of social justice over the rule of law.
DeSantis mentioned Thursday’s suspension of Andrew Warren as 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney, speaking on how to “faithfully” apply the rule of law to strengthen the community and the system.
“We had a duty to go for another Supreme Court appointment in the state of Florida, with the news of the retirement of Justice [Al] Lawson,” DeSantis said. He thanked him for his service, before discussing the backgrounds of different nominees for two previous appointments for the state Supreme Court.
Referring to a court case contesting one of the appointments, based on a requirement to sit the bench, DeSantis said that Judge Renatha Francis facing a lawsuit that “came at the 11th hour” was disappointing. The governor said he was amidst a “thorough” review of other candidates and nominees for the court, before announcing Judge Francis would be appointed as the newest Florida Supreme Court Justice.
“I believe this appointment of Judge Francis is one that will really reinvigorate and fortify our judiciary in a very positive way,” DeSantis said. “But also send a great message that you can realize your dreams. That people come from all walks of life, that it’s really about the content of your character, your willingness to work hard, your willingness not to be denied and take no for an answer. There are always going to be people that tell you that you can’t do this, or you can’t do that. I think Judge Francis is proof that you can start off with long odds but you can still do great things.”
DeSantis said her appointment would be effective at the beginning of September, and named her the next Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
Francis spoke after DeSantis, mentioning some of her background before beginning to work in the state judicial system, and saying she would work to preserve respect for the rule of law as a justice for the state’s highest court. She is the second female justice appointed.
“I’m humbled that I get to be a part of this great American experiment, and to serve at the highest level of our state judiciary. The Florida Supreme Court protects the people’s liberty, and inherent in the way that we do that as a judiciary is by respecting and observing the limited role that our judges play in our Constitutional system of government,” Francis said, then cited Alexander Hamilton’s beliefs on government as a Founding Father.
Judge Francis thanked supporters and family, and state officials for helping her get to this point, saying that she “would not be standing here today” without their actions and support.