Florida Supreme Court says Gov. DeSantis ‘exceeded his authority’ in Renatha Francis appointment

Supreme Court of Florida
The written opinion, however, says a remedy is "legally unavailable."

In an opinion published Thursday, Florida Supreme Court Justice Carlos Muniz said Gov. Ron DeSantis “exceeded his authority” when appointing Judge Renatha Francis to the Florida Supreme Court.

The opinion comes after Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Windemere filed a lawsuit against the appointment. The lawsuit claimed Francis was ineligible because she did not satisfy the minimum time requirement of 10 years as a member of the Florida Bar at the time of her appointment. According to the opinion, Francis will not reach the mandated 10 years until Sept. 24.

“In a nutshell, when a Governor fills by appointment a vacant judicial office, the appointee must be constitutionally eligible for that office at the time of the appointment,” Muniz wrote.

While the ruling against the appointment was concurred by five other Justices, the Court also described Thompson’s requested remedy as “insurmountable.” In his written opinion, Muniz said that the Court cannot invalidate the appointment or require DeSantis to appoint someone else from a new list of candidates as requested by the Thompson.

“It is not enough for the Petitioner to establish that the Governor exceeded his authority by appointing Judge Francis,” Muniz wrote. “To prevail in this action, the Petitioner also must have sought proper relief. This is where the Petitioner’s case fails.”

Muniz wrote there is no legal justification for the Supreme Court to require a new list of candidates. He added that the “correct remedy,” which would be to appoint eligible candidate from the existing list, is contrary to Thompson’s stated objectives.

“Therefore, we hold Thompson to the remedy she requested and deny her petition,” Muniz wrote.

DeSantis appointed Francis on May 26 and defended the appointment by arguing she would be eligible before she took her oath for the court.

In statement from the Governor’s Office, Communication Director Fred Piccolo said “the General Counsel’s office is reviewing the decision and we will have more to say after a thorough analysis of the Court’s opinion.”

Muniz’s written opinion can be read online.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


  • Ray Blacklidge

    August 27, 2020 at 11:57 am

    No one said that Judge Renatha Francis isn’t highly qualified to sit on the Florida Supreme Court, the ruling is that she won’t meet the required prerequisites of serving on the Supreme Court until September 24th, less than a month from now. For Thompson to state that “the JNC unfortunately is now viewed as a sham and a farce” show why Thompson isn’t qualified to sit on the Florida Supreme Court. Many excellent attorneys serve on the Judicial Nominating Committees, all whom seek Judicial Candidates who strive to uphold the State Constitution.

  • Edward Freeman

    August 28, 2020 at 3:57 am

    It is great that the Florida Supreme Court somehow still has the ability to recognize blatantly illegal conduct when they see it. Unfortunately, they lack the fortitude to do anything about it. There are plenty of people sitting in Florida’s inhumane prisons right now because they somehow missed a date in law by just a few months. They include one woman who is serving a sentence of multiple decades for selling a few pain pills. Had she sold those same pills a few months later, after the legislature recognized they had made the sentence far too harsh, she would be free today.

    The only qualification that the current JNC cares about is if the judicial candidate is a member of the shadowy, far-right Federalist Society.

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