When Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Renatha Francis to the state’s Supreme Court, he made history — she would have become the first non-Cuban of Caribbean heritage to sit on the court and the first Black justice since former Justice Peggy Quince retired last year.
Now, Francis, a Jamaican immigrant, won’t get the chance.
Politically, she is a "No-No," to much of Florida’s Black and white liberal political and media establishments.
Black, conservative, and a member of the Federalist Society, which believes that the judiciary must say what the law is, not what it should be, and places a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law.
Because she was a few months shy of the 10-year membership in the Florida bar, required by the state Constitution, for eligibility for the court when appointed, DeSantis decided there was no problem since, being on maternity leave, she could wait and take the oath of office and become a member of the court on September 24 — her 10-year anniversary date.
There was no public opposition to the appointment from Florida's legal community or any other group until State Representative Geraldine Thompson, a Black Democrat, filed a lawsuit challenging the appointment arguing that Francis was not qualified because she did not meet the 10-year requirement.
Eventually, the court agreed and ordered the governor to select another candidate from the same list from which he appointed Francis — which did not include any other Blacks.
Regardless of her claims that her suit was not political, Thompson’s words spoke for themselves. She said that Floridians need to believe that Supreme Court judges will act based on the "law and not based on a political agenda or some ideology."
DeSantis held a press conference in Miramar with a group of Black Democrats, many of Caribbean descent, who joined him in attacking the court’s ruling against Francis and urging Thompson to drop her lawsuit.
Among those attending was Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, Lauderdale Lakes Mayor Hazelle Rogers, and attorney Bruce Pettis, the first Black president of the Florida Bar Association.
In a February opinion article, Pettis wrote that a few months is worth the wait to allow the Supreme Court to be more reflective of the state’s population and ensure fairness and justice at the highest level of our court system.”
Holness said that it was "foolhardy" for Thompson to continue pushing her case since it would mean — as it has — that there would be no Black justice on the court.
It took courage for these Black Democrats to break from the Black and white Democratic establishments and support a conservative Black jurist.
DeSantis maintained throughout that Thompson’s lawsuit was "politically motivated" and "an insult to the Jamaican American community and the broader Caribbean American community. . . in South Florida."
He was right.
Unlike in the white political world where diversity of viewpoints is welcomed, Blacks who dare venture off the Democratic Black political "plantation" are usually attacked by both Black and white liberal political and mainstream media establishments.
And so it was with Black Democrats who supported Francis’ appointment.
A good example is South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board member and columnist Steve Bousquet who called the press conference a "road show."
His column’s headline read, "A Sorry spectacle as Broward Democrats stand by DeSantis.” He derogatorily referred to them as "politicians who call themselves Democrats . . . "
Bousquet should have said what his headline implied: "How dare these Blacks leave the Democrats’ plantation and have their own political viewpoints?"
Thompson, Bousquet, and their liberal allies should be careful about what they wish for.
They may have gotten rid of a Black conservative, but the governor replaced her with a white anti-abortion, pro-school choice conservative — Jamie R. Grosshans!
Francis may be the right color, but she had the wrong politics for Thompson — and those who some believe put her up to filing the suit.
You could bet that the issue would not have come up if she had been a Black liberal Democrat.
Thompson and those who supported her in the shadows probably jumped for joy when they succeeded in keeping a Black conservative off the court.
She may forever be remembered as the Black woman who carried out a political hit job on another Black woman. Because of her action, for the first time in nearly 40 years, there will be no Black on the Florida Supreme Court.
I hope Thompson and her friends are proud of themselves!
Clarence V. McKee is president of McKee Communications, Inc., a government, political, and media relations and training consulting firm in Florida. He served on the U.S. Senate staff, held several positions in the Reagan administration and Reagan presidential campaign, and was an advisor to the Angola Freedom Fighters (“UNITA”). He is a former co-owner of WTVT-TV in Tampa and a former chairman of the Florida Association of Broadcasters. His articles have been published in several publications including The Washington Times, Human Events Online, the Florida Courier and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. His media appearances include Newsmax TV and FOX News Radio. He is the author of "How Obama Failed Black America and How Trump Is Helping It." Read Clarence V. McKee’s Reports — More Here.
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