Early Friday, the Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling that because Palm Beach Circuit Judge Renatha Francis is currently not qualified by the rules of the state constitution to be a Florida Supreme Court justice, Gov. Ron DeSantis must now pick an eligible justice by noon on Monday.
That doesn’t leave him much time or many options.
The ruling came after a lawsuit was brought by Democrat State Representative Geraldine Thompson, who originally wanted to require DeSantis to restart the nomination process from scratch so that it would include a qualified black candidate to replace Francis, who is also black.
But Florida’s top court denied Thompson’s initial request, and instead accepted a modified request that DeSantis make his pick from the same list that he was presented with back on January 23, 2020. At that time, the list included eight names aside from Francis,
But one of those names, John Couriel, has already been appointed to a different vacancy on the Florida Supreme Court, leaving DeSantis with just seven names to choose from. Of those, three are men, four are women, but only one fits the same minority female mold embodied by Francis: Fifth District Court of Appeals Judge Meredith Sasso, who is the only Hispanic woman on the list initially provided by the Judicial Nominating Commission, the group responsible for vetting potential court appointees for the governor.
There is one Hispanic male on the list, well-known Miami attorney Eliot Pedrosa, a recent Trump Administration appointee to the Inter-American Development Bank, where he represents the United States in votes on lending projects that the bank’s management proposes to support economic development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
But given how the opposition to Francis played out among Democrats, DeSantis may feel more free to reject identity politics altogether and select a white male from the list. Those include Fifth District Appeals Court Judge Jonathan Gerber and First District Appeals Court Judge Timothy Osterhaus.
Thompson plans to hold a press conference via Zoom at 1pm Friday to answer questions about her successful challenge to block DeSantis’s original pick.