Miami Herald

DeSantis, for the second time, appoints Renatha Francis to Florida Supreme Court

- BY LAWRENCE MOWER Herald/Times Tallahasse­e Bureau

Gov. Ron DeSantis for the second time named Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Renatha Francis to the Florida Supreme Court.

Francis, 44, was DeSantis’ choice for the court in 2020, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled that she didn’t meet one of the minimum requiremen­ts for the job: 10 years as a lawyer with the Florida Bar.

Francis, who was born in Jamaica, is a member of the Federalist Society, a group of lawyers and judges who believe the judiciary should have a more limited role. With Francis, DeSantis deepens his imprint on Florida’s highest court after more than three years as governor. Francis is his fourth appointmen­t, giving the court a majority of conservati­ve justices picked by DeSantis.

Francis is replacing Justice Alan Lawson, who resigned earlier this year.

At a Friday news conference in West Palm Beach,

DeSantis dismissed the dispute over Francis’ qualificat­ions that prompted the Supreme Court to deem her unqualifie­d in 2020.

State Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, had sued to stop the previous nomination, pointing out that the state Constituti­on required a

Gov. Ron DeSantis once again turned to Circuit Judge Renatha Francis to fill a vacancy on the state’s highest court. Two years ago, she didn’t have enough experience as a lawyer to meet eligibilit­y requiremen­ts.

could hamper the county’s effort to preserve Virginia Key’s sensitive environmen­t.

Levine Cava said that the proximity to Virginia Key’s historic site of the former segregated Black beach during the Jim

Crow era “would likely create significan­t friction within the community and fails to recognize the historic significan­ce of the site.”

The mayor said that housing for those with extremely low incomes would be a better solution, and that the proposed transition zone is not close enough to hospitals and other social services.

“A transition­al housing site far from basic services is likely to exacerbate the problem,” Levine Cava wrote.

Miami Commission­er Joe Carollo proposed the idea as a way to humanely provide temporary shelter away from city neighborho­ods, where residents have complained about tents, furniture, human waste and urine on residentia­l streets. He said he envisions social services being offered onsite.

City staff have developed a preliminar­y concept that was approved July 28 when Carollo, Chairwoman Christine King and Commission­er Alex Díaz de la Portilla voted in favor.

In her memo, Levine Cava said her staff is still looking into whether the city’s plan violates land restrictio­ns put in place when the county deeded land on Virginia Key to the city in 1982.

The deed restrictio­n could be the basis of a movement to take ownership of the land away from the city.

During a county virtual informatio­n meeting Thursday evening, Regalado said she wants to explore the idea of providing different forms of shelter elsewhere, but she is willing to take major steps to fight the city’s plan because “Virginia Key is 100% the wrong location.”

Meanwhile, neighborin­g Key Biscayne is watching closely. Mayor Mike Davey said the village would fight any plan that moves forward with moving homeless people to Virginia Key, but he thinks the concept is unlikely to clear the logistical hurdles.

“How are they going to get the infrastruc­ture out there?” he said, referring to the lack of water, sewer and electricit­y on the undevelope­d land.

Housing advocacy organizati­on Miami Homes For All objected to the plan in a statement this week on social media. The group said the site is isolated from social services and transit, and the best solution is permanent affordable housing.

“Creating more temporary solutions to homelessne­ss is not best practice, extremely costly, and diverts funding from the evidence-based solution that would help these individual­s: deeply affordable housing with on-site supportive services,” a post on the group’s Instagram account said. “This solution is proven to be most effective and also the least costly to taxpayers.”


The agency that manages the formerly segregated beach park south of the proposed transition zone, the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust, was not consulted before the Miami commission’s vote July 28. The Trust’s chairman, N. Patrick Range II, told the

Herald the park has historical value that his organizati­on has sought to promote as a comfortabl­e place for families to spend time together.

“We have church baptisms, birthdays, weddings, and other special events,” Range said. “So the concern would be the proximity, the potential danger of having homeless persons moving in and about the park as they please.”

Range, a land use attorney, said the city might have to change the land’s zoning to build the transition zone, which could make the land vulnerable to pressure from private developers to eventually build something else there.

King, the Miami commission’s chairwoman, has pushed back against critics in a series of statements. She questioned why there hasn’t been outrage over sidewalks in Overtown being blocked by homeless people in tents, or outcry over children in Liberty City who on the way to school have to walk by people living on the street, human waste and syringes.

“My vote was an effort to avoid attempts to place the encampment in District 5, which is one of the poorest areas in our City,” King said in a statement on Instagram. “The issue of homelessne­ss received a few head shakes and sad looks as long as it was in the poorest neighborho­ods, where Black people live. But now that the encampment is proposed to be situated in an affluent area, there is explicit outrage. The hypocrisy!”

King also pushed back on the idea that the tiny home site has anything to do with the beach park.

“This encampment is NOT proposed to be placed on the Historic Black Beach and is in fact more than a mile away from the beloved area,” she wrote. “Those who are claiming otherwise are endeavorin­g to hide the true cause of their objections.”

 ?? ?? Judge Francis
Judge Francis
 ?? PEDRO PORTAL pportal@miamiheral­ ?? Medical student Dan Bergholz of the Miami Street Medicine team checks on someone living in a tent on NW 17th Street in Miami in March.
PEDRO PORTAL pportal@miamiheral­ Medical student Dan Bergholz of the Miami Street Medicine team checks on someone living in a tent on NW 17th Street in Miami in March.

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