May 26, 2020
FL Governor Ron DeSantis May 26 Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a coronavirus press conference on Tuesday, May 26. DeSantis announced two more appointments to the Florida Supreme Court and discussed potentially hosting the DNC or the RNC.
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Governor Ron DeSantis: (00:00)
Justice Barbara Lagoa and Justice Bobby Luck, they were very good picks, and I think the best evidence of that is that they now sit on a superior court, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and so we appreciated their service. It was effective but brief, but because it was so effective, they were promoted by the President and now left two more vacancies for the Florida Supreme Court. And this process began in earnest in December when Bobby and Barbara took their places on the 11th Circuit. The Judicial Nominating Commission produced a heck of a slate of very, very great candidates, and we were going through the vetting process in my office once we had the certified list, but the state of emergency with the coronavirus prompted us to delay the selections.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (00:48)
I was not in a position to spend hours and hours reading these opinions and other writing, given all that we were dealing with at the time. But particularly over the last several days, I’ve had a little bit more time to do it over the weekend, and I’m happy today and very pleased to announce the appointments of two more South Floridians, Judge Renatha Francis and John Couriel, as the next justices for the Florida Supreme Court.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (01:24)
Now, I’ve been in office about 16 months, and since taking office, I’ve had the privilege to make five appointments to the Florida Supreme Court. Four of those five appointments have come from South Florida. Two of the appointments have been women. Three of the appointments have been Hispanic. Judge Francis will be the first Caribbean American to sit on the Florida Supreme Court, and she may be the first Caribbean American to sit on any state Supreme Court. We’ve researched it. We haven’t been able to find anyone. Maybe other folks can look at that and see, but it is quite possible, but certainly in Florida.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (02:05)
Judge Francis was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the US as an adult, after having run two businesses in Jamaica, and serving as the primary caregiver to a younger sibling. I think she’ll say a little bit more about her background, but I think it’s extraordinary, what she’s been able to accomplish.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (02:24)
Her understanding of the Constitution reminds me of another famous Caribbean American, Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was born and raised in the British West Indies. He rose from obscure circumstances to be the greatest treasury secretary in American history, as well as one of the main authors of the Federalist Papers, and Hamilton articulated what Judge Francis deeply understands, that the judiciary lacks authority to indulge its legislative preferences, that courts cannot exercise its personal will, but merely apply a legal judgment. And Judge Francis has demonstrated a strong commitment to the rule of law, as well as to the judicial craft. Her years of experience prior to becoming a county and then circuit judge was spent serving as an attorney for the judicial branch, such as the first DCA in Tallahassee. And so I think through that experience, as well as her exemplary experience on the bench, she is well equipped to be able to be a great justice on the Florida Supreme Court.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (03:31)
Judge Francis is married to her husband, Philip, who’s here. She has two children, and many of you may see one that’s very, very young, about a month old. So we have a two month old at home, and so we kind of understand and feel what she’s going through. She is on maternity leave from her judgeship, and I think her ascension to the court in September is going to be something that we’re all looking very much forward to. So Judge Francis, your story’s inspirational. Thank you for your willingness to serve, and congratulations.
Judge Renatha Francis: (04:10)
Governor Ron DeSantis: (04:12)
John Couriel was the son of Cuban exiles. His father escaped the tyranny of Fidel Castro via Operation Pedro Pan in 1961. John replaces a daughter of Cuban exiles, Judge Barbara Lagoa, on the Florida Supreme Court, and one of the things I really appreciated about Barbara was how the rule of law was just ingrained in her as being something very important, and I see the exact same worldview out of John given the family’s experience. People like John, and it’s 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. And so when you go through that, when families have that personal experience about what can happen when law gets superseded, you produce people like Barbara Lagoa and John Couriel, who understand the importance of upholding the Constitution and upholding the rule of law for all Floridians, and so that we can maintain a free society. John’s parents, had they not escaped Cuba, John’s one of the most talented lawyers I’ve ever been around, but had they not escaped Cuba, he may be driving a taxi cab or something. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you would not have been able to realize your potential in other fields. It would have been what the government told you to do. So his parents leave a totalitarian society, come here without any advantages, but they had freedom.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (05:50)
And so what has happened, John graduated from Harvard University as an undergrad, Harvard Law School. He was an Assistant US Attorney right here in Miami at one of the most high profile US Attorney’s offices in the country, the Southern district of Florida. He has been an adjunct professor at Florida International University, and a very, very high profile and well-compensated private litigator. He is giving up a lot of money to be able to serve, and I think that that says a lot about John, about his character, and about how important the rule of law is, that he’d be willing to do it.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (06:27)
But I do think one of the things John brings, he instinctly understands the proper role of the judiciary. He understands the structural limitations in the Constitution, all those things that you would want. But I think because he’s had such extensive business experience, he’s bringing a perspective on the court that may not be there in abundance right now. And they’re all great judges, but I think John brings something additional, which will be very, very good going forward.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (06:57)
He also has a list of very, very strong recommendations. He was recommended by one of the outgoing Supreme Court Justices, Justice Bobby Luck. He’s also highly recommended by Senator Tom Cotton, Judge Roy Altman down here in the Southern district, as well as former governor Jeb Bush. So he’s joined by as well his wife Rebecca and their two kids. And so John, I want to thank you for being willing to serve. You’re putting your money where your mouth is by giving up a lot of renumeration in the private sector, but you have the ability to do a great job, so congratulations to you and your family.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (07:38)
And with that, I’m going to let the two new justices come up and say a few words.
Judge Renatha Francis: (07:51)
Thank you so much, Governor. I’m incredibly honored and humbled by this appointment, and the confidence that you’ve shown in giving me this tremendous opportunity to serve the people of-
Judge Renatha Francis: (08:03)
You’ve shown in giving me this tremendous opportunity to serve the people of our great state of Florida. From very humble beginnings to standing before you all today, I am truly the epitome of the American dream. I grew up in the island nation of Jamaica, the daughter to a single mom who never finished high school and who herself was only a small farmer’s daughter. But none of that mattered because what my mom had and what she imparted to her two daughters was grit, determination, and hard work. And those values, inculcated early and often, were reflected in me when I began my first profession, as the governor mentioned, as a small business owner in my late teens and early 20s. And for those of you who are curious, I operated a bar and a trucking company, and I did that for about five years. And I did that all while attending college full-time, eventually graduating with high honors and being a surrogate parent to a much younger sibling.
Judge Renatha Francis: (09:13)
As a student of history, growing up, I was and remain in awe of the United States, its constitution, its freedoms, its respect for the rule of law, and I wanted to be a part of that story. And so, like generations before me, this young immigrant girl set out to find her place in this shining city on the hill. When I embarked on my second profession in the law, never did I imagine that my journey would lead me here, standing before all of you. And so I’m truly grateful, but more than that, I’m humbled, that I get to be a part of this American experiment and to serve at the highest level of our state judiciary.
Judge Renatha Francis: (09:55)
The Florida Supreme Court protects the people’s liberty, and 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 judgment. It’s okay, baby. It’s okay. 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 potential abuses of power.
Judge Renatha Francis: (10:38)
If history teaches us anything, it’s that as 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 state, we’re governed by the rule of law, not of man.
Judge Renatha Francis: (10:55)
I want to close by thanking some very important people in my life without whom none of this would have been possible. To my mentors and my colleagues, you have supported me tirelessly and in the process, amazed me with your generosity, dedication, and kindness. To the Florida Supreme Court JNC, thank you for all the hard work you do while juggling personal and professional commitments and for giving me the opportunity really of a lifetime. To the former governor, now senator, Rick Scott, for giving me my very first appointment to the bench. And to my friends and colleagues for your calls, your texts. I truly feel the love. A special thank you to my family. Mom, for all the sacrifices you made to make sure that my sister and I had everything we needed, even if it wasn’t everything that we wanted, for your love and your continued support, thank you. To my husband, Phillip, whose unwavering support and belief in me sustains me. You’re a true partner in every sense of the word, and it’s been quite a journey so far, and I cannot imagine doing this without you by my side. I love you.
Judge Renatha Francis: (12:20)
Most of all, thank you for my two precious boys, Joshua and Matthew, who is off somewhere fussing. Josh, you’re a wonderful little boy. You’re a great big brother. You are. And Matthew, you’re a wonderful baby. Eventually one day, you’re going to see this. You’re a wonderful baby, but dear Lord, please let mom and dad sleep. And again, to Governor Ron DeSantis, thank you again for this honor and this opportunity to serve our great state. I’m truly humbled. Thank you. Thank you everyone.
Justice Couriel: (13:09)
Governor DeSantis, Lieutenant Governor Nuñez, Mayor Giménez, Judge Francis. It’s such an honor to stand here with you. I’m profoundly grateful today. 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. 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. I am grateful to the people of the state of Florida who welcomed my parents to our country 60 years ago when they and their parents sought justice, a better life, and most of all, freedom. This state and this country shared all those things with my family. There is no better way to be grateful for something than to share it. And so today, in committing myself to this work, I also give thanks to the people I am blessed to serve, with whom I am honored to share my best efforts.
Justice Couriel: (14:22)
I am grateful to my parents, who made the most of the opportunities available only here, only to Americans. For my father and for his parents, that meant sacrifices I, now a father myself, find inconceivable. He, like 14,000 other children from Cuba and untold millions from other places, parted ways with his parents, trusting in the goodness of this country, coming here as an unaccompanied child. He spent six years in the care of good people who owed him nothing, but who were Americans. My mother, too, came from Cuba. Her parents took whatever work they could find, did it well, and without complaint so that she and her siblings would know what is possible in this country. Today, they do. And while none of my grandparents are physically here to celebrate once more how their sacrifice has been rewarded, I know they see it.
Justice Couriel: (15:31)
[foreign language 00:07:34]
Justice Couriel: (16:01)
Justice Couriel: (16:04)
I am grateful to the many teachers I’ve had, to my colleagues at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, for my partners at Kobre and Kim, the lawyers who trained me at Davis Polk and Wardwell, the Honorable John D. Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, and the many judges, adversaries, and educators who made me better than I would have otherwise been. Thank you.
Justice Couriel: (16:37)
Most of all, I am grateful to my wife Rebecca, who blesses me every day with compassion and love, and to our children Jonas and [Eden 00:00:16:50], who make us happy. You make me want to be better than I am and to live up to the trust that has been placed in me today. Thank you all.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (17:10)
Well, it’s really an honor to be able to bring these two great nominees, or actually appointments now at this point. I think it’s a credit for a number of things. One, to South Florida, every time we’re doing this, you have so many great candidates that come out of Southern Florida. I think that that’s a testament to a lot of the great talent that we have here.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (17:29)
I also look at somebody like Judge Francis, who immigrated to this country and started a second career. But while it’s her second career, she’s already been a county and a circuit court judge. She grew up single mom, like they said, in Jamaica, was running these businesses, taking care of a sibling, and then comes here, works really hard, and ends up on the Supreme Court. So Caribbean-Americans should know in Florida, the sky’s the limit. But really anyone that comes here has an opportunity to make the most of their God- given talents. Judge Francis is very much emblematic of that. I know she’s going to serve very well.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (18:06)
And then, now Justice Couriel if you look, any time there’s issues with people standing up for freedom and democracy and rule of law, you just look to the Cuban-American community here in South Florida. Time and time again, the people that are produced have the dedication to freedom, democratic self-government, and the Constitution. I think John really exemplifies that. For him to give up the type of money he’s making, not a lot of people would do that, I can tell you. I’m not going to say exactly how much, but if you research his application, I think you probably would be able to find out as well. It’s quite a bit of money. But the willingness to serve and the willingness to bring a really top-flight intellect in service of the public and in service of the public’s liberties is something that I think is admirable.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (18:59)
We’re excited today to be able to do this here, and I look forward to them serving very well into the future. You can ask them some questions. If it’s out of bounds, I’m not going to tell them not to answer. But if you want to ask them, or I’ll take some questions as well. Yes, ma’am?
Speaker 5: (19:22)
[inaudible 00:19:22] question for you. One, your reaction to Judge [inaudible 00:19:22] decision yesterday. And two, [inaudible 00:19:28] Twitter conversation about the RNC [inaudible 00:19:28].
Governor Ron DeSantis: (19:29)
The case we knew was going to happen. That was obvious from the beginning. It’ll go to 11th Circuit, and we’ll see how it shakes out there. In terms of the RNC, Florida would love to have the RNC. Heck, I’m a Republican. It would be good for us to have the DNC in terms of the economic impact when you talk about major events like that.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (19:48)
So my posture on all this is, we should try to get it done as best we can in accordance with whatever safety requirements. But his government will be talking about the safety restrictions, the President’s government. So if he’s going to do a convention, obviously he’s going to want to abide by whatever they’re saying. So if we can get that done and do it in a way that’s safe, that would be a huge economic impact for the State of Florida.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (20:14)
We lost out on with the pandemic coming, we lost out on some of our traditional events that we normally do, some of the golf tournaments, tennis. We had WrestleMania scheduled for April, which people don’t realize is hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity. I think that that would be great.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (20:33)
Just like I’ve said to many people, Florida wants to work with you. If you’re a business, if you’re a sports team, if you have some of these events, we want to work with you to get to yes. I can’t guarantee every single idea is going to necessarily be something that we’re going to be able to do, particularly like tomorrow. But as you look in the summer and stuff, we definitely want to work.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (20:54)
So the door’s open. We want to have the conversation, whether it’s RNC, DNC, whatever, because I think it would be good for the people of Florida.
Speaker 5: (21:02)
Governor Ron DeSantis: (21:03)
So I said, no, it’ll go to Eleventh 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 Ninth Circuit. So I think we’ll go, and then we’ll see what happens. But I think that there’s obviously good grounds.
Speaker 6: (21:18)
Governor [crosstalk 00:21:20].
Justice Couriel: (21:25)
I have not spoken with the President specifically on that. We’ve let the folks at the White House know that we want to work with them, and we think that would be a good thing to do. So he knows that, and I know the key people in his administration and his campaign know that.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (21:45)
Well, maybe Carlos has a great … A lot of it is, we obviously have a number of areas in our state that could do it. Obviously, Miami could do it. Orlando could do it. Tampa could do it. Jacksonville could do it. You may even have some other places that could do it. I think it’s just a matter of whether they want to do it.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (22:06)
The good thing about it is they’ve already raised a lot of money for this already thinking it was going to be in North Carolina. So if you have a Florida committee, if it ends up in Florida, a lot of that work in terms of raising the funds has already been done. So it would kind of be a plug-and-play thing. So we would want any of the local communities that were interested in doing it to work with them. I’m not going to say that I’m going to choose Orlando over Miami, because it’s really not my decision. My decision as a governor is to just kind of say, we want to work with you guys. We’d like to have these things here in Florida.
Speaker 8: (22:37)
[inaudible 00:22:37] how do you see the process [inaudible 00:22:37] in the state? [inaudible 00:22:50] nursing homes. Is there any avenue [inaudible 00:22:54]
Governor Ron DeSantis: (22:54)
So with the reopening, and this is over three weeks ago now, we did the phase one, and we left Southeast Florida out of that initially. They were trending good, but talking with Carlos and talking with the other counties. So we did the other 64 counties. I think if you look at what’s happened since that started, when they have cases, it’s almost always a prison, a longterm care facility, or we’re actually sending people into migrant communities, migrant workers. They live in tight quarters, so it can spread a little bit more there. But their positivity rate in terms of if I do a hundred cases, usually out of a hundred tests, it’s one or two will test [inaudible 00:23:35] So it’s very low.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (23:35)
But even Southeast Florida has really plunged now. I think Broward and Palm Beach and Miami is now about 10%. The tests that come in are almost always under that. But then you look at the hospitals, we’ve had so much hospital space this whole time. There was never any danger of being overwhelmed since we went into phase one. No change in that. In fact, people that are in hospitals now, the increase has been because of the elective surgeries, which we think is important because people do need to-
Governor Ron DeSantis: (24:03)
-has been because of the elective surgeries, which we think is important, because people do need to get those. The indicators are, we haven’t seen a major overflow into hospitals or anything like that, and so we’re very methodical about. I’ve also done it particularly with southeast Florida to empower the local officials, the county-level, and I know some municipalities are doing things, but I think that those local solutions are probably better. I said from the beginning of this, and a lot of people criticized me, but the virus was never going to impact this state uniformly. It’s too diverse, I think if you’ve ever seen that graph of the number of people that came from New York City when they fled at the height of the epidemic, where was the number-one spot they went? Southern Florida.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (24:46)
And they didn’t necessarily go to the Florida panhandle, they didn’t necessarily go to north central Florida or some of those other places. There were just unique challenges, and I felt that having Miami Dade be able to do things and Broward in certain ways, without imposing that on those other counties was the way to go. I think that that’s proven to be good. But Miami, if you look at, there were over 500 cases a day at the beginning of April. Now, unless it’s a data dump, a lot of these cases are at the prison, at the homestead. So they’ve definitely seen a decline in the virulence of this here, and that’s because they’ve done a lot of hard work. But I think that the mayor did a major plan when he … it was so extensive, probably more than a lot of states have done in terms of what they did, in terms of their plan. We’re supporting what they’re doing, and I want them to be able to be empowered to make these decisions.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (25:41)
Speaker 10: (25:43)
[crosstalk 00:25:43] state of Florida billion-dollar [inaudible 00:25:49]
Governor Ron DeSantis: (25:54)
I think CARES Act should be flexible. We’ve worked with the treasury on that. They have, if you look at their guidance, gotten more flexible as the weeks have gone on. So for example, we can use CARES Act money to pay the salaries for all the first-responders, all the healthcare stuff. So if you look at our budget, there’s a lot of things that we can use that for, and I think they’re going to continue to be a little bit more understanding on that. Actually, in Florida, just for the state’s share, we’re between, I think, 4.5 and five billion. Places like Miami Dade have gotten some money directly. We do have some money for all the counties and cities that didn’t get it direct, we will then use with local government.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (26:34)
But that is going to be a little bit different, because Mayor Gimenez, he can spend the money, if he goes afoul of the CARES Act, they’d come after him for it. All the other locals who didn’t qualify, if they misspend it, they take it out of the state. So we’re working on some guidelines to make sure that if some city is using it who didn’t already qualify for it, that they’re not spending it in a way that, a year from now, someone’s going to come take 500 million out of the state treasury, because we’re ultimately responsible for that portion.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (27:04)
The ones that got it directly, like Miami Dade and Broward and Jacksonville, they are responsible for how they spend it. But I think if you had more flexibility on that, that would be a really, really good thing. We’ve dedicated a lot of money to things like testing, but I’ve been saying this, and now you actually are starting to see some media report it. The testing capacity we have exceeds the demand for people taking the test. We do usually 50% capacity at our drive-through sites. Now, our C.B. Moore and Broward will usually have 80, 90%. The Miami sites are usually around 50, and I have some, like the panhandle, they have, like, 50 people in a day will come through those sites.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (27:47)
So we identified a lot of things for that, and obviously we’re going to continue to test, but the fact of the matter is, we haven’t been able to test as many people as we thought would want to get tested. We’re not going to force you to go through a drive-through site. Unless you’re a first-responder or working in a long-term care facility, if you’re just a member of the general public, it’s really your choice about whether you want to go in. You don’t need to even have symptoms. You want to go into these sites, go into these sites. It’s very, very good.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (28:16)
We’re also doing more serological testing, and I think that that’s a good expense to be able to try to identify exactly … Carlos did this here with the University of Miami, and they were able to identify the prevalence, which means the fatality rate was much lower. What was the fatality rate based off how you guys calculated it?
Speaker 11: (28:42)
I think the last time we got [inaudible 00:28:43].
Governor Ron DeSantis: (28:43)
Okay, so .14. Remember, when the World Health Organization, I think, in February, they said the fatality rate would be 3.4%. So that means 100 cases, 3.4 would be fatalities. When you look at the seroprevalence, like what Miami and Mayor Gimenez did, .14, that is a whole different ball game. Seasonal influenza’s about .1. We’re going to do seroprevalence in every other part of the state to be able to get a handle on it, but I think what you’re seeing, and the CDC actually, in their guidance last week, they put out a really important document where they estimate the infection fatality rate nationwide, if you include the asymptomatic carriers, to be .26. Again, a vast cry from the 3.4.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (29:26)
If you really look at it, if it weren’t for some of the nursing home policies in some of these other states, where they were sending the sick residents back, forcing them back into the nursing homes, that’s counted for thousands and thousands of excessive deaths. Had they not done that, you would have fewer deaths nationwide, and I think that that number would be even more powerful.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (29:48)
But bottom line is, on this money, the testing is important, both seroprevalence and the diagnostic. I think we’ve really, really ramped it up. If you look in the last week, we had days last week where we got 75,000 test results back. That’s more than some states have tested this whole time. Yesterday I think we got 45,000 back. Earlier last week, we got 55,000 results back. Yesterday, for today’s report, I think 20,000 results back. When we were at the beginning of this epidemic, we were getting eight, nine, maybe 10,000 a day. So we’re twice what we were doing, which I think is really, really important.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (30:29)
But I hope everyone will give these great new justices a round of applause, and so the media, but everyone else. We want to thank them for their willingness to serve. So thank you, guys.