Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday his choices to fill two vacancies on the state Supreme Court. In Miami, DeSantis said he is appointing Palm Beach Judge Renatha Francis and Miami attorney John Couriel.
Couriel’s parents left Cuba during the presidency of Fidel Castro.
“You’ve heard it said that Alexander Hamilton said courts have neither force nor will but merely judgment and sometimes a good audience. Governor, my prayer today is that your judgment will have been good, and that my judgment will not let you down.”
The other Florida Supreme Court appointment, Renatha Francis, was born in Jamaica.
“Florida Supreme Court protects the people’s liberty. A part of doing that is respecting the limited role that judges play in our constitutional system of government. As judges, we exercise neither force, nor will, but merely judgement. And so, we apply the law as written by the people’s duly elected representatives. This timeless principle, in a civil society, promotes predictability, uniformity, and it provides a framework for, and restraints on, the polity, checking arbitrariness and the potential abuses of power. If history teaches us anything, it’s that a simple and enduring as this principle is, it’s evaded the vast majority of humanity until this American experiment. In our great country and our great states, we’re governed by the rule of law not of men.”
According to Slate, one requirement of becoming a Florida Supreme Court Justice is having been a member of the Florida Bar for the preceding ten years. Francis won’t have achieved that landmark until late September. DeSantis has delayed filling the Supreme Court vacancies because of the coronavirus emergency. An email from the governor’s office announcing the appointments says, “Francis will officially take her seat on the Supreme Court on September 24, 2020.”
Over the weekend, a federal judge ruled that Florida law can’t stop felons from voting because they can’t pay back any legal fees, court costs and restitution. Today, DeSantis suggested that a legal fight was not over.
“It’ll go to 11th Circuit. We knew this was going to happen. I mean, it was obvious from the beginning, of how this shook out. No other court in the country has held this. Even the 9th circuit. So, I think we’ll go and then we’ll see, you know, we’ll see what happens. But I think that there’s obviously good grounds.”
President Trump is demanding assurances from North Carolina’s Democratic governor that the Republican National Convention can go forward in August despite coronavirus fears. Governor DeSantis wants Florida to be considered as an alternate site.
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Here are the official announcements from the governor’s office:
Governor Ron DeSantis Appoints Judge Renatha Francis to Serve as First Jamaican-American on the Florida Supreme Court
Miami, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of Judge Renatha Francis to the Florida Supreme Court. Francis’ appointment fills the vacancy of former Florida Supreme Court Justice Robert Luck, who now serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit after being appointed by President Donald Trump. Francis will officially take her seat on the Supreme Court on September 24, 2020.
“Judge Francis’ story demonstrates that anyone who comes to United States has an opportunity to make the most of their God-given talents,” said Governor DeSantis. “Before immigrating to Florida, she ran two businesses and served as the primary caregiver for a younger sibling in Jamaica. After completing her law degree, she advanced to serve on the Miami-Dade County and then the 15th circuit court. Starting in September, she will serve as the first Jamaican-American to sit on the Florida Supreme Court and I know she will serve our state well.”
“I’m incredibly honored and humbled by this appointment and in the confidence that Governor DeSantis has shown by giving me this tremendous opportunity to serve the people of the great state of Florida,” said Judge Renatha Francis. “As a student of history growing up, I was and remain in awe of the United States Constitution, its freedoms and its respect for the rule of law. I look forward to applying the law as written by the people’s duly-elected representatives as I serve at the highest level of our state judiciary.”
Francis, of West Palm Beach, is the first Jamaican American to serve on Florida’s Supreme Court. Francis currently serves as Judge for the 15th Circuit Court in 2019 and previously served as Judge for the Miami-Dade County Court in 2017. Francis also served as an attorney for the 1st DCA in Tallahassee from 2011-2017. Before attending law school, Francis owned and successfully operated two businesses for five years. Francis received her bachelor’s from the University of The West Indies and her Juris Doctorate from Florida Coastal Law School. She and her husband Phillip are the parents of two sons, one of which was born recently. Francis will officially join the Supreme Court on September 24, 2020.
Governor Ron DeSantis Appoints John D. Couriel to the Florida Supreme Court
Miami, Fla. – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of John Couriel to the Florida Supreme Court. Mr. Couriel’s appointment fills the vacancy of former Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Lagoa, who now serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit after being appointed by President Donald Trump.
“John Couriel’s life experience has taught him the value of freedom and democratic principles,” said Governor DeSantis. “John has had a very successful career in the private sector and his willingness to serve and lend his intellect and abilities to our state is admirable. He believes in the rule of law and understands the proper role of the courts. I look forward to his accomplishments as a Justice on the Florida Supreme Court.”
“I’m grateful for the trust that Governor DeSantis has placed in me by inviting me to serve on the highest court of our state,” said John D. Couriel. “Alexander Hamilton said, ‘courts have neither force nor will, but merely judgment,’ and I intend to exercise that judgment to the best of my ability. I am grateful to the people of the state of Florida who welcomed my parents to America from Cuba 60 years ago, when they and their parents sought justice, a better life and most of all freedom. Once again, I’m thankful to the Governor for this opportunity to serve Florida and its citizens.”
John D. Couriel
Couriel, of Miami, is a partner at Kobre & Kim LLP, an international law firm specializing in disputes and investigations. Prior to joining Kobre & Kim, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. Before that, he practiced with Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, where he focused on internal investigations and commercial disputes. Mr. Couriel received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and his Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School. He and his wife Rebecca live in Miami with their two children.