Saturday 19 September, 2020

Florida gets new Supreme Court nominee after Jamaican pick rejected

Jamie Grosshans

Jamie Grosshans

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis nominated Judge Jamie Grosshans on Monday for the Florida Supreme Court after the high court sided with a Democratic lawmaker and nullified the governor's previous appointment of Jamaican-born Renatha Francis.

DeSantis announced the nomination Monday evening to comply with the Supreme Court's deadline. The court ruled Friday that DeSantis exceeded his authority by appointing a constitutionally ineligible judge to the high court and told him to pick another judge for the post. They initially gave him until noon Monday to do so, but then pushed it back to 5pm. DeSantis said he choose Grosshans on Sunday.

Grosshans was appointed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal in 2018. Before that, she served as an Orange County Court Judge in the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida, where she presided over criminal and civil matters.

Renatha Francis

“She has a great breadth of experience. She ran her own her own private practice and she's also served as a trial judge and currently now as an appeals court judge,” DeSantis said. “She understands the proper role of the court is to apply the law as it's written, apply the constitution as it's written — not to legislate from the bench.”

The previous nominee, Francis, withdrew herself from consideration on Friday. But DeSantis said he called President Donald Trump and recommended Francis for appointment as a federal judge. Francis and her family joined Grosshans and her family for the announcement.

“No one comes to a position like this alone, and I have been carried to this moment by the generosity of countless people,” Grosshans said. “You can trust I will bring a fidelty to the law and an unyielding respect for the separation of powers to my service on the court.”

She will be the only woman on the seven-member court.

DeSantis appointed Francis in May even though she didn't meet a requirement of being a member of the Florida Bar for at least 10 years. She will meet that requirement on September 24, but the court said DeSantis is required to fill a vacancy on the court within 60 days and he has far exceeded that deadline. Francis was supposed to fill the vacancy of former Justice Robert Luck, who resigned in January.

Democratic state Rep Geraldine Thompson petitioned the court to undo the Francis appointment.

“It wasn't necessarily the way we envisioned the process, but I think the result is going to be very, very good and I think we'll look at a great Supreme Court justice and I think we'll end up with, hopefully, a new, great federal district court judge,” DeSantis said.

Florida governors are required to fill vacancies from a list provided to them by the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. Friday’s ruling said that DeSantis must pick a new nominee from the original list of seven names, given to him earlier this year.

Francis would have been the first Caribbean-American justice to serve on the court. She was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States as an adult. She currently serves as a circuit judge in Palm Beach County.

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