State Representative Geraldine Thompson filed an emergency petition on July 13th with the Florida Supreme Court, charging that the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission exceeded the limits of its authority by certifying a list of nominees on January 23, 2020 that included a nominee who does not meet the constitutional requirements to hold the office of Supreme Court Justice. The petition further maintains that on May 26, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis exceeded the limits of his authority by appointing a candidate to the Florida Supreme Court who did not meet the constitutional eligibility requirement of having been a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years preceding the appointment.
Representative Thompson charges that the JNC and Governor DeSantis violated Article V, Section 8 of the Florida Constitution which states, “no person is eligible for the office of justice of the supreme court or judge of a district court of appeal unless the person is, and has been for the preceding ten years, a member of the bar of Florida.” One of Governor Ron DeSantis’ appointees to the Florida Supreme Court became a member of the Florida Bar on September 24, 2010 and will not meet the constitutional threshold until September 24, 2020.
The emergency petition requests that the JNC be required to certify a new list of nominees who meet the constitutional requirements for appointment to the Florida Supreme Court, and that Governor DeSantis appoint a person from that list.
“Governor DeSantis has said that diversity in the judiciary is important and I agree,” said Representative Thompson. “He has also said to the Democratic Leader of the Florida Senate that if he appoints an African American to the judiciary, that person would have to be someone like U. S. Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas. I believe a critical appointment such as this should be based on merit and not ideology. There are more than five individuals on the original list of applicants who are African American and who have been members of the Florida Bar for more than two decades. The Governor can appoint one of them and achieve his stated goal of diversity. That’s what I am seeking,” concluded Representative Thompson.