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Florida Supreme Court orders DeSantis name new justice by noon Monday

Gov. Ron DeSantis the day he named Judge Renatha Francis to the Florida Supreme Court.
Gov. Ron DeSantis the day he named Judge Renatha Francis to the Florida Supreme Court. (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court on Friday unanimously rejected Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appointment of a circuit judge to the panel and ordered him to name a new justice by noon Monday.

DeSantis' appointment of Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Renatha Francis “has not complied with the Constitution’s clear commands” because she has not met a constitutional requirement that justices be members of The Florida Bar for 10 years," the court ruled.

Throughout DeSantis' campaign and once in office, 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,” DeSantis said when he took office in January 2019.

When DeSantis named Francis to the high court, he had already missed the constitutionally mandated deadline of March 23. Then the justices determined she had not been a member of the bar for the minimum amount required by law.

Ironically, it was a black lawmaker who had pushed for an African-Americans on the court, which has none, who filed the successful challenge Francis, the only African-American on the judicial nominating list.

Geraldine Thompson, who brought the challenge, said the governor got what he wanted -- justices that 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.

“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,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said.

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

To meet the high court’s Monday deadline, DeSantis must now make an appointment from the remaining names on the list he was given in January.