The court issued a Friday ruling nullifying the appointment of Judge Renatha Francis because she fell short of the 10-year mandate for someone to be admitted to the Florida Bar before they are eligible for a position on the high court.
Francis was admitted to the Florida Bar on Sept. 24, 2010, making her tenure with the bar several months short of the admittance requirement for the Florida Supreme Court under state law. While Francis’s nomination was a win for Black lawmakers who had pressed DeSantis to add an African American to the bench, critics pointed to the timing of her pick to say she should still not be permitted on the court.
“The constitution’s ten-year Bar membership requirement and sixty-day appointment deadline are bright-line textual mandates that impose rules rather than standards and prioritize certainty over discretion,” the court ruled. “We hold that the constitution requires the Governor immediately to appoint and commission a constitutionally eligible nominee from among the seven remaining candidates already certified by the judicial nominating commission.”
DeSantis has until Monday to appoint another judge to fill the vacancy that would have gone to Francis. The spot first opened up with the retirement of Justice Robert Luck.
Governors in the Sunshine State are mandated to fill Supreme Court vacancies from a list given to them by the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, meaning DeSantis will have his picks narrowed to those from the original list which was provided to him earlier this year before Francis’s nomination hit its roadblocks.
The effort to block Francis from joining the court was brought by State Rep. Geraldine Thompson (D). She had initially requested a new list be crafted for DeSantis, but amended her petition to fit the court’s ruling from two weeks ago that first determined that the governor overstepped his authority in appointing Francis.
“My motivation was to protect the independence, the autonomy and the confidence that people have in our judiciary,” Thompson told The Associated Press. “I put my hand on the Bible and raised my hand to God and said I would protect and defend the constitution. I feel that I had a responsibility to do that.”