FL Supreme Court ups pressure on DeSantis to name a replacement justice after he misses deadline

The Florida Supreme Court building. Credit: Colin Hackley

Update: The governor has scheduled a news conference for 5 p.m. E.T. in the state Capitol. No subject matter mentioned.

After Gov. Ron DeSantis blew through a noon deadline for naming a replacement to Renatha Francis for a vacancy on the Florida Supreme Court, the justices issued a formal writ giving the governor until 5 p.m. to reply or risk contempt sanctions.

On Friday, the court ordered DeSantis to make the appointment but held off on issuing a writ of mandamus — that’s ordering someone to fulfill a duty they are obligated to perform. About three hours after the deadline passed, the court acted.

“Trusting that the governor would fully comply with the order, and consistent with our traditional practice, the court withheld issuance of the writ of mandamus. The deadline has now passed,” the justices said in an unsigned note on the case docket.

“It appearing that the governor has yet to comply, we hereby issue the writ of mandamus and order the governor immediately to comply with the court’s order of Sept. 11 and to certify his compliance to the Court by 5 p.m. today.

DeSantis’ original appointment — Francis — led to court fights, with the governor losing. The Supreme Court had already ruled that Francis, a trial judge in Palm Beach County, didn’t meet the requirement in the Florida Constitution to qualify. For a seat on the state’s highest court, a jurist must have belonged to The Florida Bar for 10 years.

She would have been the first Black person DeSantis had placed on the court, out of five appointments since taking office in January 2019. Like DeSantis, she is affiliated with the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, which grooms young lawyers to assume their role in the conservative legal establishment.

None of the candidates now eligible for the job are Black but four are women.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.