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The only black nominee for Florida’s Supreme Court is technically unqualified

Judge Renatha Francis has not been a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years.
The Florida Supreme Court, Wednesday, May 1, 2019.
The Florida Supreme Court, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Jan. 24, 2020

Florida’s Supreme Court has been without a black jurist since 2018, a gap that Gov. Ron DeSantis has been pressured to fill.

There are two vacancies on the court, and the Judicial Nominating Commission has offered nine nominees, only one of whom is black.

And there’s another problem: That nominee, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Renatha Francis, is technically unqualified.

As The Palm Beach Post notes, the Florida Constitution requires justices on the high court be a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years. And Francis has not been a member of the bar — or a lawyer — for 10 years.

She graduated from Florida Coastal School of Law in 2010 and was admitted to the bar on Sep. 24 that year. If nominated by Gov. Ron DeSantis, she wouldn’t be able to serve until Sept. 24, 2020.

Francis mentioned the highly unusual situation during her interview with the commission.

“If I had the privilege of being nominated by you and being selected by the governor, I would take the commission and the office on Sept. 24, 2020,” she told the committee, according to the Post.

Why the commission would nominate someone who couldn’t serve for six months is unclear. Nominating commission chair Dan Nordby declined to comment to the Post.

DeSantis has less than two months to name his picks.

Francis has apparently been on the governor’s radar for a while. Last year, DeSantis made the unusual decision to name her to the Palm Beach County bench even though she lived in Miami.

The Post wrote at the time that the decision raised eyebrows in Palm Beach County, where lawyers wondered why DeSantis couldn’t nominate someone who lived there.


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