Lawyer prepared to drop secondary challenge to Renatha Francis’ Supreme Court nomination

Florida Supreme Court
Florida Supreme Court

A lawyer pursuing a parallel challenge to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ abortive effort to place Renatha Francis on the Florida Supreme Court says he’ll withdraw his petition now that the governor has placed a qualified justice on the court.

“I’m a little surprised the court hasn’t ruled on it already to say that it’s moot,” Jacksonville attorney Terry Bork said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Failing that, he said, “I’ll probably dismiss it.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the docket reflected that the case remained active.

Bork filed his challenge on behalf of Robert Burch Jr., a former Ohio attorney and former state senator who has retired to Fernandina Beach.

Their case raised this objection to seating Francis, an immigrant from Jamaica who serves on the trial bench in Palm Beach County and who would have been the only Black justice: That she hadn’t been a member of The Florida Bar for the constitutionally mandated 10 years in time to meet the constitutionally mandated deadline.

While his case was pending, the justices ruled in a similar case brought by state Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Orange County ordering DeSantis to drop Francis and seat a qualified justice.

Thompson, who also is Black, called the governor’s selection of an unqualified Black judge “one of the worst and most egregious examples of racial tokenism that I have ever seen in my life.”

Shortly before the court’s 5 p.m. Monday deadline, the governor picked Jamie Grosshans of the Florida 5th District Court of Appeal. There were no black candidates on the vetted list for Supreme Court justices. Grosshans will be the lone female on the high court.

Bork declined to comment on Grosshans’ merits.

“I wanted someone who would satisfy the 10-year bar requirement. It did not seem fair that someone was trying to skirt that requirement.”