A state lawmaker who filed a lawsuit challenging one of the Governor’s latest Supreme Court nominations said the Judicial Nominating Commission is now viewed as both a “sham” and a “farce” following the appointment of a potentially ineligible judge.
Speaking at a press conference in Tallahassee, Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Windemere elaborated on her lawsuit challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ May 26 appointment of Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Renetha Francis to the Supreme Court.
The lawsuit claims the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission “exceeded the limits of its authority” by including Francis on a list of nominees because she failed meet the minimum time requirement of 10 years as a member of the Florida Bar. Francis will not reach the mandated 10 years until Sept. 14.
“The JNC unfortunately is now viewed as a sham and a farce,” Thompson said. “There have been people who are on other JNCs, not the Supreme Court JNC, who have left because they were directed to send forward only the names of certain people.”
She also argued the appointment undermines the integrity and outlook of the state’s highest court.
“I think the long-term of this is that you’re gonna have highly qualified people who are not going to put themselves through the rigors of applying, being interviewed, and know that in the end, you’re going to have a JNC do whatever it wants to do,” Thompson said.
Notably, Thompson claimed DeSantis, shortly after his election, requested a meeting with Senate Democrat Minority Leader Audrey Gibson. There, she claims DeSantis told Gibson if he were to appoint an African American to the Supreme Court, they would need to be similar to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and, desirably, a member of the Federalist Society.
She described the appointment as a “dangerous path.”
“I do not believe that being a member of the Federalist Society should be the litmus test for appointment to the Florida Supreme Court and being someone in line with Clarence Thomas should also not be the litmus test for being appointed to the Florida Supreme Court. I think that you should have judges, who are on the court at every level, who have the independence to make decisions based on the law and not based on some political agenda or some ideology.”
Orlando attorney William Ponall, who is working with Thompson on the lawsuit, said DeSantis and the JNC have until Aug. 3 to provide a written response to the lawsuit.
“My opinion and the representative’s opinion is that there is no way around the clear and plain language,” Ponall said.