Florida Supreme Court Rules Against DeSantis, Rejecting His Appointment

Renatha Francis smiles speaks at a news conference in Miami earlier this year announcing her appointment to the Florida Supreme Court. [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]
Justices unanimously ordered Gov. Ron DeSantis to appoint another candidate from a list of nominees offered early this year by the Judicial Nominating Commission.
The ruling is the final blow to a weeks-long battle between DeSantis and the five of the six justices of the court who ruled on Aug. 27 that the governor’s appointment to the court, Palm Beach County Judge Renatha Francis, is not qualified because she has not been a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years as required by the Constitution.

Francis, 42, was born in Jamaica and would have been the court’s first justice of Caribbean descent who was not from Cuba.

The court gave DeSantis until Wednesday to answer why it should not order him to immediately appoint someone who was qualified.

Before he responded, however, a defiant DeSantis assembled several Democratic Black leaders to Broward County for a news conference, to join him in assailing the ruling.

DeSantis’ petition then argued that he had not appointed Francis in May, but had just “announced” the appointment. He asked the court to allow for oral arguments, a tactic that could have delayed the resolution of the case past Francis’ 10-year anniversary as a member of the Florida Bar.

By Friday, the court slapped down that argument, rejected the governor’s request, and repeated its order that the governor had failed in his constitutional duties.

“The Governor has not satisfied his legal obligation to fill the vacancy by making a constitutionally valid appointment,” the court wrote in an opinion signed by five of the justices. Justice John Couriel, who was also appointed by DeSantis on May 26 with Francis, recused himself.

“This is true if one views the Governor as having made a null appointment on May 26 (because Judge Francis was and is constitutionally ineligible),” the order continued.

“It is also true if, as the Governor belatedly suggests in his response to the amended petition, the May 26 ‘appointment’ was a mere ‘announcement’ and not an appointment at all. Either approach leads to the same conclusion: the Governor has not complied with the constitution’s clear commands.”

DeSantis had vowed to make the court one of the most conservative in the nation, aligning it with the strict textualist approach embraced by the Federalist Society, the national organization devoted to advancing conservative lawyers to the federal and state bench.

The opinion then quoted former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, an icon of the texturalist movement.

“To some, enforcing rules like these might seem needlessly formalistic when the result is to preclude the appointment of an otherwise qualified candidate. But ‘formalism,’ as Justice Scalia observed, ‘is what makes a government a government of laws and not of men.’”

“Because we believe the Governor will do so, we grant the amended petition for a writ of mandamus but withhold issuance of the writ,” the court concluded. “No motion for rehearing or clarification will be entertained by this Court.”

For more on the original article visit https://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2020/09/11/florida-supreme-court-rules-against-desantis-removing-his-appointment/

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