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Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Renatha Francis appointed to Florida Supreme Court by Gov. Ron DeSantis

Judge, tapped by governor to serve 2 years ago before being deemed ineligible after legal fight, to fill vacancy of retiring Justice Alan Lawson
Posted at 10:21 AM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 21:38:50-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County Judge Renatha Francis is set to become the newest member of the Florida Supreme Court.

Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement Friday morning at the historic old Palm Beach County courthouse in downtown West Palm Beach.

The appointment of Francis comes after the state's Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission announced in June that she was among six applicants under consideration for the vacancy.

Francis said Friday that she was "incredibly honored and humbled by this appointment."

This isn't the first time that DeSantis has nominated her to become a justice on the Supreme Court.

Francis made headlines in May 2020 when the governor appointed the judge to serve on the state's highest court.

However, just three months later, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the governor exceeded his authority because he appointed Francis before she was eligible.

"We actually had someone file a lawsuit to try to keep her off the court because they said she can't be appointed until she reaches the 10-year mark," DeSantis said during Friday's announcement. "And, look, it was a disputed point of law. The Judicial Nominating Commission thought it was fine to nominate and have take office at 10 years. I thought it was fine to appoint and have that appointment be effective at 10 years. Florida Supreme Court disagreed."

Gov. Ron DeSantis names Renatha Francis next Florida Supreme Court justice, Aug. 4, 2022
Gov. Ron DeSantis announces that he is appointing Palm Beach County Judge Renatha Francis as the next Florida Supreme Court justice during a news conference Aug. 4, 2022, at the historic old Palm Beach County courthouse in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida.

DeSantis said that, despite her appointment two years ago, he did a thorough review of qualified candidates this time around, "because there may have been people two years ago that have progressed a lot, and so it wasn't anything that she was entitled to just because she got it two years ago."

The governor said "she's done even better" since her 2020 appointment, "and she was really good on everything."

Francis, born in Jamaica, would become the first Caribbean-American to sit on the Florida Supreme Court. She moved to Florida after running two businesses in Jamaica.

She will become the only Black justice currently serving on the court and just the second female alongside Judge Jamie Grosshans.

Judge Renatha Francis speaks after being appointed to Florida Supreme Court by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Aug. 5, 2022
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Renatha Francis speaks during an Aug. 5, 2022, news conference at the historic old courthouse in downtown West Palm Beach, Fla., after Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed her to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.

"The Florida Supreme Court protects the people's liberty and inherent in the way that we do that as a judiciary is by respecting and observing the limited role that judges play in our constitutional system of government," Francis said.

Francis is filling the vacancy of Justice Alan Lawson, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, who is set to leave the bench Aug. 31.

Francis has been a judge in Palm Beach County since 2019, when DeSantis appointed her to the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit. She was first appointed to the Miami-Dade County court bench by Scott in 2017.