Still no word on Renatha Francis appointment to Florida Supreme Court

Report that she omitted ethics complaints may complicate picture

By: - July 26, 2022 12:35 pm

Renatha Francis, behind podium, looks toward her family after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on May 26, 2020, that he planned to place her on the Florida Supreme Court. However, the court later ruled that she was not qualified. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez stands at left. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel screenshot

It’s been more than a month since a commission submitted the name of Palm Beach County trial judge Renatha Francis for a coming vacancy on the Florida Supreme Court. Gov. Ron DeSantis has until the middle of next month to decide whether to place the Jamaican-American judge on the court.

He doesn’t plan to rush the process.

“I anticipate that the governor will take as much time as he needs to get to know all the nominees and make the right decision, potentially up to the full allotment. We’ll let you know when he has made his decision,” Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary, told the Phoenix by email.

The next nominee will fill the vacancy left by the planned retirement of Justice Alan Lawson on Aug. 31.

The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission included Francis among six potential justices on June 14. All have ties to the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy, which cultivates young lawyers for places within the conservative legal movement. Federalists also dominate the commissions that nominate lawyers to fill vacancies on the state’s trial and lower appellate courts under Florida’s merit-retention system.

The governor has 60 days from the date of the commission’s submission to decide.

No Black person has served on the Supreme Court since Peggy Quince entered mandatory retirement as DeSantis took office in January 2019.

The Florida Bulldog, an investigative news website, reported on June 19 that Francis had failed to report in her nomination materials that she’d been the subject of any ethics complaints, which is one of the questions asked. The Bulldog has since reported that she’d been the subject of as many as five complaints about her fairness during proceedings in her family court.

Failed nomination

DeSantis tried to place Francis on the court two years ago but the justices refused to allow it on the ground that she hadn’t belonged to the Florida Bar for the 10 years specified in the Florida Constitution. The court rejected DeSantis’ suggestion that she could go on maternity leave for the four months left before she would have met that requirement on Sept. 24, 2020.

DeSantis appointed Jamie Grosshans, an appeals court judge, instead.

Francis holds a law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, which closed last year, and worked as a staff attorney and clerk with the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee, then at the politically connected Shutts & Bowen law firm, according to her application. She also has served as a county court and circuit court judge in Miami-Dade.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.

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