Senate Rules Committee upholds nomination of Denise Francois to Superior Court bench
Published: September 21, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Attorney Denise Francois is one step closer to becoming one of the territory's newest V.I. Superior Court judges.
In July, Gov. John DeJongh Jr. nominated Francois, a long-established attorney from St. Thomas, to become the newest St. Thomas-St. John Superior Court judge.
The Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee unanimously forwarded the nomination on Friday during a committee hearing. Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone and Sen. Donald Cole, who also are on the committee, were absent for the vote.
"I think - not think - I know that I can do a good job," Francois said to the committee.
Francois, if confirmed by the full Senate, would replace Superior Court Judge James Carroll III, who deJongh did not renominate to serve a second term.
About 38 applicants vied for deJongh's nomination for the St. Thomas-St. John District.
However, committee members noted that Francois had received especially high praise from a V.I. Bar Association survey. About 74 percent of the association recommended Francois for the position.
Francois, who was born in Washington, D.C., currently manages the Hodge and Francois law firm and has done so since 2005.
She grew up in St. Thomas and attended Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School and Antilles School, though she ended up graduating from a high school in Massachusetts.
She was one of the first class of women admitted to Amherst College in Massachusetts, where she majored in political science and graduated in 1980. Within a year, she returned to the Virgin Islands, where her family lives and where she could count on always getting a piece of her grandmother's famed Vienna Cake and sweet bread, she said.
Francois applied to law schools in California and graduated with a law degree from the San Diego School of Law in 1984. Two years later she returned again to the territory and was admitted to the V.I. Bar.
She was an associate attorney for Maria Hodge's law firm from 1984 to 1991, when she became a partner and the firm changed its name to Hodge and Francois.
During her career, Francois has practiced before the V.I. Superior Court, V.I. Supreme Court, District Court, and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Francois also has practiced before agencies such as the V.I. Labor Department, Public Employees Relations Board, Board of Land Use Appeals, Coastal Zone Management Committee, Public Services Commission and Division of Banking and Insurance.
She has primarily focused on civil cases, though she said during the committee hearing Friday that her cases have run the gamut from first-degree murder cases to adoption cases.
Francois said that if she is appointed, she would like to lessen the costs of litigation for plaintiffs and defendants, create alternatives to imprisonment and release of offenders and run the courts more efficiently.
Her patience, compassion, understanding of the law and ability to apply it will see her through the job, she said.
"I was raised to treat everybody fairly," she said.
After the committee upheld the governor's nomination on Friday, Francois said she would not let anyone down.
On St. Croix, current Superior Court Presiding Judge Darryl Donohue Sr. has not been renominated, and St. Croix attorney Robert Molloy has been nominated to replace him on the bench.
To replace Donohue as the presiding judge, deJongh renominated current Judge Michael Dunston.
The nominations for all three judges will go before the full Senate during a legislative session scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.