Jamaican-Born Judge Previously Blocked from Serving on Florida Supreme Court Attains Seat

Jamaican- born Judge Renatha Francis was named by Governor Ron DeSantis to serve on the Florida Supreme Court on August 5, 2022, two years after being blocked from a seat on the court because she had not been a member of the Florida Bar for the required ten-year period stipulated in the state’s Constitution. She had previously been scheduled to take her seat on the court on September 24, 2020.

In 2019, Francis was set to make history by becoming the first Jamaican and first Caribbean-American to be appointed to the Florida Supreme Court but was deterred by the constitutional stipulation. Now that Judge Francis meets all the qualification requirements, Florida Governor DeSantis has named her to replace Justice Alan Lawson who retired as of August 31, 2022. Francis was one of 17 applicants vying to fill the at-large vacancy. With her appointment, Francis will be the only Black judge on the Florida Supreme Court and the first non-Cuban Caribbean-American judge ever to sit on the court.

Judge Renatha Francis

Governor DeSantis has noted that “Judge Francis’ story demonstrates that anyone who comes to the United States has an opportunity to make the most of their God-given talents.”

Judge Renatha Francis, 45, was born and raised in Jamaica and attended St. Hugh’s High School and the University of the West Indies. She operated a bar and a trucking firm while attending the university and graduated with a magna cum laude Bachelor of Science degree in 2001. She moved to Florida in 2004 and earned her JD degree from the Florida Coastal School of Law. She became a lawyer on September 24, 2010, and launched her legal career as a law clerk at Florida’s First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, working there from 2011–2017. She worked as a litigator with the law firm Shutts & Bowen in Miami prior to her 2017 appointment to the Miami-Dade County Court by Governor Rick Scott. In 2018, Scott appointed her to the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County. She was appointed to the 15th Judicial Circuit Court in Palm Beach County by Governor DeSantis in 2019, serving in the probate and family division of the 15th Circuit.