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Ron DeSantis might illegally appoint Renatha Francis to the Florida Supreme Court.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a briefing regarding Hurricane Dorian to the media on August 29, 2019 in Miami, Florida.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives a briefing regarding Hurricane Dorian to the media on August 29, 2019 in Miami, Florida.

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has been violating the state constitution since March 23. On that date, he refused to appoint two justices to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court of Florida by the constitutionally mandated deadline. Now the governor appears to be mulling another unconstitutional move: He may appoint a nominee who cannot legally take office.

After Justice Peggy Quince’s retirement from the court in January 2019, the court was left without an African American justice for the first time in 36 years. The Florida appellate bench is in desperate need of diversity. During eight years in office, former Gov. Rick Scott appointed 36 judges to our appellate courts—more than half the bench—and one to the Supreme Court. Scott appointed only one African American—in mid-December 2018, fewer than thirty days before he left office.

DeSantis is different. He seems to have a genuine desire to increase diversity on the bench. He has appointed several African American trial judges since taking office. Now that his first two state Supreme Court appointees resigned to take seats on a federal appellate court, DeSantis has the opportunity to appoint an African American justice. And he is under pressure to do so by Democratic state lawmakers and editorial boards.

Thirty-two people applied for the two vacancies. Six of the applicants were African American. Of those six, the court’s judicial nominating commission, which vets applicants and sends the governor nominees, nominated one, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Renatha Francis. (The JNC failed to nominate any African American applicant in the last round of appointments for three vacancies.) The problem is that the JNC has nominated someone who is constitutionally ineligible to sit on the Florida Supreme Court at the time the vacancies must be filled.

Under Article V, Section 8, of the Florida Constitution, “No person is eligible for the office of justice of the supreme court … unless the person is, and has been for the preceding ten years, a member of the bar of Florida.” Francis was admitted to the Florida Bar on September 24, 2010. She will not meet that requirement until September 24, 2020. DeSantis was obligated to appoint justices by March 23, but he declined to and said he would probably make the appointments on May 1. Even then, Francis would not be eligible.

Her ineligibility has been briefly noted by news articles, an editorial board, and Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Thompson, who criticized the nomination in an op-ed. Nova Southeastern University Professor Robert Jarvis, the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, former president of the Florida Bar Eugene K. Pettis, and even Francis herself acknowledge the issue but paper over it. They argue there is a difference between appointment and commission. A commission, as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, is “[a] warrant or authority, from the government or a court, that empowers the person named to execute official acts.” It is a formal document signed by the governor. According to those who support Francis’s appointment, she need not be eligible at the time of appointment so long as she is eligible at some time in the future. At that point, the governor can issue her the commission and she can take office.

But the text of the Florida Constitution does not support that view. There are two other constitutional provisions that are relevant. First, Article V, Subsection 11(c) states that “[t]he governor shall make the appointment within sixty days after the nominations have been certified to the governor.” (Emphasis added.) Next, Article V, Subsection 11(a), provides that, “[w]henever a vacancy occurs in a judicial office to which election for retention applies, the governor shall fill the vacancy by appointing for a term.” (Emphasis added.)

DeSantis appears to reject constitutional limitations on his authority.

The plain language of the Florida Constitution does not distinguish between appointment and commission. The constitutionally significant event is the appointment, which is what fills the vacancy. How can a vacancy be filled if the appointee does not take office for a few months? It can’t.

Florida Supreme Court precedent confirms that, when an appointment to office depends solely on the governor’s authority—which is the case with appellate judgeships in Florida—the appointment is not complete until the governor issues a commission. In 1971’s State ex rel. Lawson v. Page, the court considered rival claims to a seat on the South Broward Transit Authority District. Gov. Claude Kirk had sent a letter to the secretary of state declaring his intent to appoint William R. Page. But Kirk failed to sign Page’s commission before he left office. The new governor, Reubin Askew, canceled the appointment and commissioned William Lawson to the seat instead. The Florida Supreme Court determined that Lawson was the lawful holder of the office. “By failing to execute a commission in favor of [Page],” the court said, “Governor Kirk failed to appoint him[.]” It concluded that, because “the act of appointment” was not completed by the execution of a commission,” Page was never actually appointed.

In 1966’s In re Advisory Opinion to the Governor, the court held a governor can’t issue a commission to a person who is ineligible for judicial office. There, voters elected a judge who would not be legally eligible to take office at the start of his term, or during a grace period created by statute. The Supreme Court told the governor “that you are not authorized to sign his commission” at all because the judge-elect would “not now nor will he within the time allowed by law possess the qualifications now required by the Constitution of this State to hold the office of a Judge of a Circuit Court.”

DeSantis is not authorized to issue Francis a commission—to make the appointment—until she is eligible on September 24. The governor can’t simply announce his intent to appoint her and satisfy the constitutional appointment requirement. Nor can he leave the vacancy open until September 24. Yet DeSantis appears to reject these constitutional limitations on his authority. His top aide said in March that “the governor is open to waiting until September to name” Francis to the court.

The Florida Supreme Court needs to be diverse. It needs different perspectives; it should be representative of our state. But the words of the state constitution are paramount, and those words are unequivocal. The Florida Constitution forbids DeSantis from appointing Francis to the court by issuing her a commission while she is ineligible, and he cannot lawfully hold the seat open until she becomes eligible. If the governor ignores these rules, he will demonstrate that he feels unbound by “the fundamental law of the state.”

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African American

Black Americans credited with major contributions to blues, jazz

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June is African American Music Appreciation Month. Created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, this month celebrates the African-American musical influences that make up an essential part of our nation’s culture. Black Americans are credited with major contributions to the creation of blues, jazz, hip hop, rap, sacred music, rock ’n’ roll, and more.

The W. W. Law Collection features a variety of materials and resources related to African-American music, from audio recordings of well-known local, national and international artists, including Marian Anderson, Paul Robeson, the King Cole Trio, and Odetta, to books about musicians and music styles, as well as sheet music and songbooks.

To explore more of what this treasured collection has to offer, visit savannahga.gov/wwlaw.

Unplugged: Savannah Jazz Festival hits the right notes in difficult year

Related: Savannah Jazz Festival returns to live performances with Circle of Friends fundraiser

City of Savannah Municipal Archives, Archives@savannahga.gov, Discover the Archives: savannahga.gov/MunicipalArchives.

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Ironton woman proud of personal African American, political collections | News

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IRONTON — Though Dawnita Redd lives by herself, she is never truly alone; she has a lifetime of collected African American and political souvenirs to keep her company.

At 69 years old, Redd is retired and living in rural Ironton, having previously spent several years serving as a social worker at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. She spent her early years in Huntington, where her father became the first Black police officer to retire from the Huntington Police Department.

In her little single-story home, Redd maintains a massive collection of various items, which she has been building up ever since she was a child. These collections are all unique, but share similar themes.

One such collection is Redd’s massive room full of Barbie dolls. Still preserved in their boxes, each wall of the room is stacked with dolls, their collective height reaching near the ceiling. The vast majority of these dolls are African American or dark-skinned, and they vary widely in age; some are as old as the first line of Barbie dolls ever produced, while others were recently made. One particular doll had even come all the way from Africa.

Redd has no particular favorite of these collections, though she does cherish some in particular. One doll she pointed out had a black dress with white polka-dots, which she said reminded her of her mother. Another was a trio of black Barbies in military dress uniforms, including the Navy, Air Force and Army.

“I love showing those ones to people,” said Redd. “I feel like they can relate to them, especially if they’ve served our country in the Army.”

Redd first began the collection back when she was a child, when she would often see Barbie dolls in the windows of stores in Huntington. Though she desperately wanted a doll, her family couldn’t afford one at the time. A close friend ended up giving her her first as a gift.

Another one of Redd’s collections is a homemade trio of political pin-sheets, primarily based around former President Barack Obama’s political career. Numbering at over a hundred and organized by age and event, the pins are sectioned off onto sheets of colored cloth; a red sheet, a white sheet and a blue sheet. The combined patriotic display was so large that it couldn’t entirely fit side-by-side on Redd’s living room floor.

Not wishing for her work to simply remain in her home, Redd hopes to soon have the combined pin display donated to the Obama Presidential Center Museum.

“By this point, if you lay ’em all out, you’ve got his complete story,” Redd said.

Redd has held a particular interest in politics for some time. She has a collection of signed autographs from every currently living U.S. president and vice president, save President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Alongside them, she has made efforts to get in contact with Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey, wishing to get their autographs as well.

Contained in a handful of plastic totes was a collection of stamps, primarily around African American icons. The highlight of this collection was a large, circular display, painted dark blue and rimmed with wood. It was framed, and rested on a backdrop of grey fabric.

Its golden plaque read “Black American Heritage Story Plate.” It contained 16 rare stamps upon it, including images of figures such as Carter G. Woodson, Martin Luther King Jr, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and more. Redd said she found the rare display during a trip to Chesapeake, Ohio.

The ultimate inspiration that’s kept Redd collecting well into her old age is her own self-interest.

“This has all been for me, but I do joke that I should’ve been collecting money the whole time,” said Redd. “I hate to say it, but I just don’t know what I’m gonna do with it all before long.”

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Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant dies

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Jim “Mudcat” Grant smiles in the dressing room after the Cleveland hurler pitched a two-hit shutout against the Kansas City Athletics, May 15, 1963. The Indians gave Mudcat a one-run lead in the first inning and made it stand up, defeating Kansas City, 1-0. (AP Photo/Julian C. Wilson)

CLEVELAND (WJW) — The Cleveland Indians organization is mourning the loss of former pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant.

According to the team, Grant passed away at 85. Officials say he died peacefully Friday night in Los Angeles.

The Indians released the following statement regarding his passing:

“The Cleveland Indians family is deeply saddened by the loss of Jim “Mudcat” Grant, a true fan favorite on both the playing field and in the broadcast booth. A native of Lacoochee, FL, he joined the Indians organization at the age of 18 in 1954, made his Major League debut in 1958, and left a legacy as large as his personality. To this day, Mudcat was a cherished member of the Indians Alumni Ambassador Program. We send our condolences to the entire Grant family , as well as to his many teammates and other organizations impacted by his 60-plus years in our game.”

Bob DiBiasio, Indians SVP/Public Affairs.

Grant had at 14-year MLB career and pitched for seven different clubs.

He played seven seasons with the Tribe and compiled a record of 67-63 from 1958-1964. He also earned American League All-Star honors in 1963.

Minnesota Twins great Mudcat Grant acknowledges the crowd after then teammate Tony Oliva presented him with a replacement ring from the 1965 American League Championship team prior to the Twins baseball game against the Cleveland Indians Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in Minneapolis. Mudcat lost his original ring many years ago. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Grant finished his Major League career 145-119 with a  3.63 ERA (2242.0 IP, 985 ER) in 571 outings (293 starts). 

In 1965 He became the first African-American pitcher to win 20 games and to win a World Series game. He played for the Minnesota Twins at that time.

He also authored a book titled “The Black Aces” which payed tribute to the 15 Black pitchers who were 20-game winners in MLB.

Following his playing days, he served as an activist and advocate for African American participation in baseball. Grant also called Indians games on FOX 8 (WJW-TV) with Harry Jones and served as a member of the team’s community relations department.

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