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Judge Renatha Francis lied on her application to join the Florida Supreme Court

application
application
A photo of Judge Renatha Francis from the first page of her application to become a justice of Florida’s Supreme Court

By Noreen Marcus, FloridaBulldog.org

Renatha Francis falsely certified on her application to join the Florida Supreme Court that she’s never been on the receiving end of an ethics complaint, a possible crime under Florida law.

Francis, a family court judge in West Palm Beach said to be Gov. Ron DeSantis’s favorite for the job, answered “No” when asked: “Has a complaint about you ever been made to the Judicial Qualifications Commission?” If so, the applicant must provide details to the JQC, a state agency that investigates allegations of judicial misconduct.

Francis signed the application which she submitted to the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, declaring she answered all questions “truthfully, fully and completely.”

In fact, at least one – and as many as three – JQC complaints have been filed against Francis. Florida Bulldog detailed one of those complaints, filed by Angela Bentrim of Loxahatchee, last week.

A screenshot of Judge Renatha Francis’s Supreme Court application showing the JQC question and her answer.

Making a “false official statement in writing with the intent to mislead a public servant in the performance of his or her official duty” is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 under Florida Statutes Section 837.06.

Francis did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

JQC LETTER ABOUT CASE

Francis’s Supreme Court application is dated May 18. Five weeks earlier, the JQC, the state’s judicial watchdog, sent a letter to Bentrim saying her ethics complaint against Francis had been “reconsidered” and rejected.

Investigators looked at Bentrim’s complaint twice and “declined to take any further action,” JQC executive director Blan Teagle wrote in the April 12 letter. She’s the ex-wife in an ongoing post-divorce case on Francis’s Palm Beach Circuit Court docket.

Angela Bentrim

In response to emailed questions from Florida Bulldog, Teagle wrote that he could share only general information and nothing specific about the Francis complaint. The commission’s Investigative Panel reviews a complaint a second time when there’s a request for reconsideration, he said.

Teagle would not address whether a Supreme Court candidate should be disqualified for certifying a false statement in an application.

“The whole thing is a charade,” said Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, in an interview with Florida Bulldog. “You don’t want a person who’s proven to be dishonest on the Florida Supreme Court.”

But “the crux of the matter,” Thompson said, is whether Francis knew about any complaints that had been filed against her. “Did they inform her?”

Under JQC rules, investigators must have informed her. The letter from Teagle to Bentrim indicates her complaint  was reviewed twice. That cannot happen unless the judge who is the subject of a complaint is notified and offered an opportunity to respond. 

Thompson has said she’s aware of two more ethics complaints against Francis.

At the end of Francis’s June 11 interview, Judicial Nominating Commission chair Fred Karlinsky asked her if there was anything concerning in her background.

“I’ve been vetted a lot and there’s absolutely nothing in my background,” Francis responded.

JNC DIDN’T ASK ABOUT FRANCIS COMPLAINT

The Judicial Nominating Commission’s job is to scrutinize Supreme Court candidates. Were its members aware of the JQC complaint/complaints against Francis? No one asked Francis about it during her June 11 broadcast interview, and her application was misleading.

Greenberg Traurig lawyer/lobbyist Fred Karlinsky, chair of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission

Florida Bulldog asked Karlinsky, a partner in the Greenberg Traurig law firm, if he and the JNC were aware that a JQC complaint had been filed and whether that is concerning to him. He did not respond to requests for comment over two days.

Bentrim’s complaint accused Francis of violating her due process rights. She claimed the judge failed to properly notify her in advance about dozens of hearings and other procedural matters, then ruled against her at every turn.

Francis retaliated against Bentrim because she went to the Fourth District Court of Appeal and argued that Francis is biased against her, according to Bentrim. The higher court did not agree.

During the two years Francis has overseen the Bentrim litigation, which dates to 2009, Angela Bentrim has appealed a half-dozen times. She was the clear winner in only one of those appeals, none of which was contested by her ex-husband, Jeffrey Bentrim.

In a dissent to an order favoring Jeffrey Bentrim, senior appellate Judge Martha Warner criticized Francis for making factual findings without evidence to support them; also, for denying Angela Bentrim the right to mediate an issue even though the Bentrims’ marital settlement agreement requires mediation.

The Bentrim case must have been top of mind for Francis when she filled out her Supreme Court application because she put it on a list of cases where she was reversed on appeal. On March 9, the Fourth District reversed Francis’s sanction of Angela Bentrim and upheld Francis’s refusal to sanction Jeffrey Bentrim in a fight about confidential records.

DISPLAYING CONSERVATIVE CREDENTIALS

At her JNC interview in Tampa, Francis, 45, showed why she’s a perfect fit for a court with a far-right agenda. Like his predecessor Gov. Rick Scott, DeSantis has stacked the court with ardently conservative justices, some of them young enough to reshape Florida law for decades to come.

During her brief opening statement, Francis declared herself a believer in “textualism” and “originalism,” buzzwords for pledging her allegiance to conservative principles. Later she said she admires Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston, two prominent conservatives she hopes will soon be her colleagues.

And Francis indicated she takes a reformer’s approach to settled law, or precedent. If a previous court “got it right,” she said, the precedent must be followed. But if an earlier ruling is “clearly erroneous,” the Supreme Court is duty bound to “revisit” the issue, especially when it involves the Constitution.

Francis echoed a controversial opinion from January 2020, State vs. Poole, when the Supreme Court majority reversed a four-year-old precedent in a death penalty case. The majority accused the liberal 2016 court of ignoring “decades” of settled law by supporting jurors’ role in sentencing.

“Under these circumstances, it would be unreasonable for us not to recede from [the previous court’s] erroneous holdings,” the unsigned opinion says.

Justice Jorge Labarga dissented “in the strongest possible terms.” Labarga, the court’s lone remaining moderate, has sharply criticized his colleagues for disrespecting precedent in other cases as well.

FRANCIS’S LAW SCHOOL NOW DEFUNCT

One topic that came up during Francis’s JNC interview was her law school, Florida Coastal in Jacksonville. But the school’s recent history went unmentioned.

Francis graduated in 2010; she finished in the top third of her class, she wrote in her Supreme Court application. She said during the interview that she chose Florida Coastal because the school offered her free tuition her first year.

Since Francis’s time there, Florida Coastal has declined to the point where it’s best described as defunct. Though technically still accredited, the school stopped accepting new students a year ago.

The for-profit school struggled to meet federal fiscal responsibility standards. Florida Coastal “operated recklessly and irresponsibly, putting its students at financial risk rather than providing the opportunities they were seeking,” Richard Cordray of the U.S. Department of Education said in a May 2021 news release.

Florida Coastal was the last standing of three law schools in a consortium called The InfiLaw System. Before InfiLaw gave up its ownership of the Jacksonville school, it shuttered the Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina and Arizona Summit Law School in Phoenix.

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Latest comments

  • I don’t see a problem. She’ll fit right in with the rest of them. A picture perfect and representative choice for DeSantis and his far right extreme team. No ethics, no problem. DeSantis just tells the Court what he wants and they produce. Just like the legislature.

  • Totally agree. Republicans lie, cheat and act as if the laws don’t apply to them. January 6 anyone?

  • Thank you for exposing this frightening situation.

  • Where were these people with their transparency questions when someone like Donald Trump was running for President? It appears that people choose who they want honesty from but let others slide.

  • So he’s just checking a box.
    But this won’t get him re-elected in November.

  • Ha ha 😂😂 this is hilarious so Republicans lie steel and cheat, I don’t know what world you guys were raised in that I commented that but apparently you need to wake up and smell the coffee there’s a whole lot of people other than Republicans that lie cheat and steal look around and what we have going on right now is not a good thing in the world I would much rather have Trump as president than what we have now is that senile old man that can’t even ride a bicycle and can’t remember let’s make it great again people happy Father’s Day y’all

  • Okay so this is beginning to sound like DeSantis modus operandi. Greg Tony lied about a murder he committed. He was appointed Sheriff in Broward County and remains in that job. Renatha will fit right in :-(. DeSantis says all the RIGHT things but he is another Charlie Crist. His administration is run by old Charlie Crist Republicans. Republicans are again in for a ride awakening!

  • Denise is a moron. At least the 80 year old Biden CAN ride a bike — unlike the big orange tub of lard who can’t even go down a few steps without hanging on to another man for dear life. Not to mention his daily word salad. TFG has ALWAYS been a criminal, but now he is a fat, old, ignorant one.

  • Oh my gosh take a good look at the Democratic Party you wanna talk about liars and thieves. The sad this is the best governor this state is had in years!!’
    That’s crazy administration will put you in the pour House keep dreaming Democrats

  • Hey its a no brainer how democrats stoop so low trying to dig up something about the republicans. Ill bet there are dozens of democrats have done worse than this judge. As long as she admits she is working solely for the american people and trying to right the wrongs of many democrats i can overlook this little white lie. As far as the election of 2020 i believe the democrats cover their bases paid everyone off and stole the election.. U can bet yr bottom dollar it wont happen again.. Especially when the gas prices and food prices have gone sky high! Im not impressed with this smear of justice against a great judge and person. Ty..

  • You Democrat Idiots are just butthurt Desantis keeps winning. Unlike the pathetic administration in the white house all they have done is destroy the economy and the country!

  • Ron deSentis need mot to be government anyways he not for us government organization can do anything illegally to us United States if citizens I think he should be peach
    I got paperwork and google all ways to address government organizations problem to I start harassing Ron DeSentis office myself for help contact me I got more proof information certified emails and responds treating a citizen like we don’t make them
    The only one

  • Hey folks — lets GET together on this — BOTH parties are guilty of NOT being truthful; in fact just being a ‘Politician” means 95% probably lie, cheat or steal. FYI – People love Mr. Trump because he’s NOT a Politician – and he doesn’t owe anybody except God. The story is about the Elite hurting our Justice System and OUR SUPREME COURT — it’s about putting a LYING JUDGE in the TOP Judge’s seat; it’s about a Judge who denied JUSTICE targeting a Mother and hurt her. Do we want this kind of person as a Judge?

    We can ALL do something about this — Let’s write to our Representatives — Better yet let’s ALL file a COMPLAINT against this unscrupulous JUDGE for LYING! 60 days in JAIL! Then we’ll see if the J.Q.C. Mr. Teagel covers up our Complaints. And for those who hate DeSantis — if he appoints a “deceiver” Judge who cheated to get the Job, it reflects on his own character! Birds-of-a-feather…

  • Great IDEA Jimmy … aren’t Judges supposed to be non-political? THANK YOU to the Reporter for exposing this Judge’s ethics… You can Google the Supreme Court and send a complaint to Post Office Box 14106, Tallahassee, Florida 32317. As a taxpayer, we pay their salaries so I don’t think these complaints should be confidential.

  • Great little to no ethics and a judge… probably one who impacts black and brown peoples lives negatively. The highly “mis-educated” people that have darker skin forget… that in a Proud Biy rally, they are considered….

  • The ends justifies the means, right? Might is right? You racist pedophile Trumpers really crack me up with your ignorant rantings.

  • Hey Folks — BOTH parties are guilty of NOT being truthful; in fact just being a Politician means 95% probably lie, cheat or steal. This is about a Judge appointed to the highest seat on the bench OUR SUPREME COURT! It’s about a LYING JUDGE and one who denied Justice. Thanks to the BULLDOG for exposing this lie. We can all do something about this corruption — write to our Representative OR write a Complaint to Mr. Teagel at the Commission about this unscrupulous Judge for cheating on her Application to get a job! If the Governor appoints a ‘deceiver’ to the high Court, it speaks to his character. Bird’s of a feather…

  • From hand gestures to dubious appointees, Tallahassee’s Mussolini is a Donald Trump copycat in every way.

  • Being a judge means accepting the responsibility to uphold the LAW — this is her DUTY to “we the people.”
    If she is REFUSING to protect OUR CHILDREN the VOICELESS in the court system, she does not deserve a chair in the elite group of OUR Supreme Court. As a first hand witness to the 12 YEAR cycle of abuse Mr. Bentrim has inflicted on both of my sisters and my mother, I am appalled that this judge allowed Mr. Bentrim’s abuse and his continuation of parental alienation. Now that Mr. Bentrim is “winning” with this Judge, the alienation has extended to our entire side of the family. It is a gross abuse of the legal system to allow innocent children who deserve to be protected at all cost! We should be protesting this Judge being promoted. Sitting on the Supreme Court is an HONOR that should be earned and clearly she has not!

  • Hey everyone this isn’t about Donald Trump ! This is about Governor DeSantis and his TERRIBLE choice of choosing someone who isn’t qualified and is actually a proven LIAR and doesn’t follow basic law !!
    Once a liar …
    Thank God we have this reporter Noreen Marcus and Representative Geraldine Thompson . Thank you both for speaking out about this unethical judge !
    Representative Thompson said there were 2 other complaints besides this poor mother who spoke up in this article . Wondering who wrote the other complaints or perhaps this wonderful reporter for The Bulldog can find out ?

  • What a travesty of justice this judge has used in her career. I can only imagine how she will unfairly litigate and damage other Florida families. The committee needs to drop her nomination for lying. She cannot be trusted in a high court position, nor a low court position.,

  • This judge also appears to have failed to disclosed “all” of her prior order(s)/decision(s) that were later reversed by a a reviewing court, as expressly required in the application. Why didn’t she list these cases where she was reversed (that I easily found online…)?

    – Nadeau v. Reeves, 328 So.3d 1001 (Fla. 4th DCA 2021) (case # 4D21-1731)

    – Gonzalez v. City of Miami, Case No. 3D18-2242 (Fla. 3d DCA, Feb. 20, 2019); lower case # 18-0088 AP

    – State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co. v. Gables Ins. Recovery, Inc. (a/a/o Nelson Vargas), 28 Fla. Law Weekly Supp. 591a (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. App., Sept. 4, 2020); lower case # 13-003033 SP 23

  • Very concerning for Florida. She’s obviously trying to hide something by not disclosing these JQC investigations. We need honest, forthright judges that are fair and firm.

  • Link to complaint form to file with the Judicial Qualifications Commission;
    https://floridajqc.com/
    Yes, it is a tedious process with snail mail but we must do it. Or risk a stacked Florida Supreme Court reshaping Florida law for decades to come, ie; SCOTUS

    Address of Judge;
    Judge Renatha Francis
    Palm Beach County
    205 N Dixie Hwy
    West Palm Beach, FL 33401-4522

    Skip page 2, unless your case involves a court case.

    Sample statement of facts;
    Judge Renatha Francis falsely certified on her Florida Supreme Court application that she has never received an ethics complaint, a possible crime under Florida law.

    Making a “false official statement in writing with the intent to mislead a public servant in the performance of his or her official duty” is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 under Florida Statutes Section 837.06

    At least one, and as many as three, Judicial Nominating Commission complaints have been filed against Judge Francis.

    Judge Francis also appears to have failed to disclose all of her prior orders/decisions that were later reversed by a reviewing court, as required in the application.

    We need honest, forthright judges on Florida’s highest court. The Judicial Qualifications Commission’s job is to scrutinize Supreme Court candidates. As a law abiding, taxpaying citizen in Palm Beach County, I implore you to do your job.

    Mail to;
    Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission
    Post Office Box 14106
    Tallahassee, Florida 32317

  • The only black people the Republican Party is interested in are people like this judge. She, like Clarence Thomas and Herschel Walker and Ben Carson, to name just three, is totally unqualified but is willing to follow the extreme right-wing agenda just to have a job. Thomas claims that he is against affirmative action because it labeled him as inferior and prevented him from being hired by top law firms. That is absolute nonsense. Long before affirmative action, there were black men and women who were much more qualified than Thomas who were not hired by those law firms. There were also white women like Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg who also were not hired. They were not hired because those law firms were not hiring women or black people. It had nothing to do with affirmative action.

    Ben Carson, who had an outstanding career as a surgeon, grew up in a poor family on welfare. He, his mother and his brother may not have had food and shelter without the help they received from welfare. Yet, he is opposed to welfare because, he claims, it encourages black people to stay on welfare. What a hypocrite!

    Herschel Walker criticizes men, especially black men, who are not active in raising their children. It turns out that he has several children that he is not in involved in raising. Another hypocrite!

    These three are just examples of the types of black people who are embraced by the Republican Party. There are many black people who have conservative principles, but unless they are willing to go along with the racism that is endemic to the Party, or to bow down to people like Trump, they will not be acceptable.

    Donald Trump was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and yet failed in one business after another, filing for bankruptcy six times. He not only stiffed banks and investors, he also stiffed small businesspeople from Atlantic City, before his casinos tanked, and Palm Beach. His megalomania requires him to stiff people to prove to himself that he is smarter than they. The people in New York have known about him for years; he could not get elected dog catcher there.

  • How about we all STOP the rhetoric and refocus on the matter at hand! Racial and political issues have NOTHING to do with the fact that Renatha Francis lied on her application to the Florida Supreme Court. It makes NO difference if she’s a Democrat, a Republican or a Hare Krishna, and it DOESN’T matter if she’s Black or White or WHO recommended her …she’s a JUDGE and she LIED! She BETRAYED her Oath of Office and FAILED to abide by the Canons Of The Florida Code of Judicial Conduct! Which now brings us to the so-called “Judicial Watchdog Agency,” the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, (“JQC”), and its Executive Director, Blan Teagle, who, along with his cohorts, has been betraying the public trust for YEARS by summarily DISMISSING valid, well-supported Complaints against judges WITHOUT even a cursory investigation into the allegations! I’ve had plenty of experience with him and his judicial panel…none of it good! The prejudiced, corrupt Judges in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Broward County violate the Code of Conduct with impunity because they know their cronies and cohorts in JQC, ESPECIALLY Blan Teagle, will assist them in avoiding the consequences of their misconduct. The Florida House of Representatives has the inherent power and authority to IMPEACH Judges – and they should start with the Judges in the JQC!

  • pick a county any county in the sunshine state and then pick a court division criminal civil circuit or county and no matter where your dart lands you got half a dozen jurists easy that perhaps are better falsehood tellers than the witnesses they swear in at any given trial–and they are dammed good at it for sure and the Bar looks the other way take that to the bank

  • After being IN front of this person, 3 times, as a victim, with an overwhelming amount of evidence. She denied all of it, threatened me with a case dismissal, then her bailiff told me I would go to jail, if I tapped my fingers, moved my legs, or ever stand up again. Then denied my motion for protection. Did Imention, I was Pro Se. This woman is sickening.

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