TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – In an unusual ruling the Florida Supreme Court said the Governor and Judicial Nominating Commission overstepped their authority by choosing an unqualified candidate to serve on the state’s highest court.
The court decided not to block the appointment, at least for now.
Prior to 2019, Florida’s Supreme Court had at least one black justice for four straight decades.
In May, the Governor picked Jamaican-American Renatha Francis to serve as justice, but her appointment is in question.
“She never should have been appointed,” said State Representative Geraldine Thompson.
Thompson sued to block the appointment because Francis hasn’t been a member of the Florida Bar for the required ten years.
“We should not have unqualified, ineligible individuals on the highest court,” said Thompson.
Thompson asked the State Supreme Court to require the JNC to produce a new list of candidates for the Governor to choose from, in hopes another black justice could be appointed.
In an odd ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed the Governor and JNC were wrong to consider Francis.
“The court clearly recognized… that the governor’s office exceeded, or did not comply, with the applicable protocols,” said FSU law professor Mark Schlakman.
While the court said it couldn’t require a new list of candidates to be created, it did explain the correct remedy for Thompson to seek.
She’d have to ask for the Governor to pick from the existing list, which includes no black candidates.
“I want diversity. I also believe in meritocracy, where we all advanced based on our merits and we don’t play by the same rules,” said Thompson.
Thompson does intend to file a revised complaint before the Monday deadline, all but guaranteeing Francis’ appointment will be blocked.
Francis will reach her ten year bar membership mark on Sept. 24.
It is unclear if there still exists a pathway for her to keep her appointment at this time.