Gov. DeSantis Appoints Jamaican Immigrant, Son of Cuban Exile to Florida Supreme Court

DeSantis Announces Supreme Court Justices

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis named Palm Beach County Judge Renatha Francis and Miami attorney John Couriel to the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday. Francis immigrated to the United States from Jamaica and is the first Caribbean-American to be seated on the state’s high court, and Couriel is the son of a Cuban immigrant.

Francis was at the state capitol with her mother, a single mom who didn’t graduate from high school but taught her daughters the value of “grit, determination and hard work.”

“I am truly the epitome of the American dream,” Francis said.

In his announcement, DeSantis compared Francis to Alexander Hamilton, who grew up in the West Indies and was a Constitutional loyalist.

“Your story is inspirational, and thank you for your willingness to serve,” DeSantis said.

Francis’s husband, toddler, and newborn baby also were on hand for the event.

DeSantis introduced Couriel by citing his father’s journey to America.

“His father escaped the tyranny of Fidel Castro via Operation Pedro Pan in 1961,” DeSantis said, referring to the some 14,000 minors ages six to 18 who were part of a mass exodus of unaccompanied children from Cuba to America between 1960 to 1962. His father left his family to come to the United States at 14.

“People like John, and particularly our Cuban-American community, they understand the importance of having a society based on the rule of law rather than based on the whim of an individual dictator,” DeSantis said.

Couriel said his father yearned for the American promise of a “better life and freedom.”

“Governor, my prayer today is that your judgement will have been good and that my judgement will not let you down,” Couriel said in his remarks.

DeSantis said he has made five Supreme Court appointments to the Florida Supreme Court in 16 months in office — four of five come from South Florida, two are women, and three Hispanics.

The Center Square website reported on DeSantis’s announcement of the appointments:

Two of three 2019 appointments – Robert J. Luck, 40, and Barbara Lagoa, 52 –  have ascended to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, creating two vacancies in January that DeSantis said he’d fill by March before the COVID-19 emergency delayed his decision.

In her59-page application and interview before the JNC, Francis spelled out her preference for judicial restraint – something DeSantis, an attorney, has keyed on in judicial appointments.

A former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, Couriel carved out a lucrative practice with Kobre & Kim. In his 68-page application and interview with the JNC, Couriel also related a preference for judicial restraint.

Francis and Couriel join a bench that has repealed four previous Supreme Court rulings following DeSantis’s appointment of constitutional originalists, Center Square reported.

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