Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday appointed a white woman to the Florida Supreme Court to replace his earlier Black female nominee, who did not meet the constitutional requirement of being a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years.
DeSantis’ appointment of Judge Jamie Grosshans came hours after he defied a noon deadline mandated by the Supreme Court to name a justice. The Supreme Court set the deadline Friday after it rejected DeSantis’ pick of Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Renatha Francis. The court said DeSantis needed to choose another applicant from a list of candidates submitted in January by the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, which included numerous Black candidates, none of whom are Republican.
State Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, who filed a legal challenge to Francis’ appointment in July, called it “absolutely insulting” that DeSantis’ sole selection for a Black justice was a candidate whom the Florida Supreme Court deemed ineligible for the post.
“It’s almost as if to say if you want color, you have to sacrifice qualifications. This is one of the worst and most egregious examples of racial tokenism that I have ever seen in my life. This is beneath the position of the governor of the state of Florida,” she said last week.
The racially charged issue even briefly sparked a rift within the Florida Legislature’s Black Caucus, when some Caribbean Black legislators initially came out in support of Francis, who is Jamaican.
Grosshans was appointed to the Central Florida appeals court in 2018 by then-Gov. Rick Scott. Speaking to reporters with DeSantis on Monday, she addressed conservative legal themes saying, “I do not take this role lightly,” before going on to quote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. “The Constitution tasks the political branches, not the judiciary, with developing the laws that govern our society.”
Grosshans will be the Supreme Court’s fifth female justice and the only current woman on the Florida Supreme Court stacked with six men.
The governor said he asked President Donald Trump, his close political ally, to consider Francis for an opening on a federal court in Florida.