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Judge Renatha Francis drops thorny family court case, giving Supremes an easy way to ignore it

Judge francis
Rotunda of the Florida Supreme Court

By Noreen Marcus, FloridaBulldog.org

Dodging embarrassment – or worse – Palm Beach Circuit Judge Renatha Francis has abruptly dropped a troublesome family court case she’s accused of botching.

Early Tuesday Francis, the frontrunner for an opening on the Florida Supreme Court, recused herself “sua sponte,” or independently, from the case of Bentrim vs. Bentrim.

She granted on an “emergency” basis Angela Bentrim’s seventh motion to remove Francis from presiding over a case she’s had for less than two years. The motion had been pending since May 25.

The only apparent emergency is the slight chance that Francis’s potential Supreme Court colleagues will scrutinize and give credence to Bentrim’s claims. Her allegations are explained in a petition to the court that her lawyer Margherita Downey filed on June 23.

“Judge Francis never e-filed an emergency order protecting the Bentrims’ minor child despite the mom’s emergency motions,” Downey said. “So much for protecting children versus protecting herself.”

Attorney Margherita Downey

Florida Bulldog reported June 26 that Bentrim had asked the Supreme Court to order Francis off her case because of judicial bias.

JUSTICES MAY CALL CASE ‘MOOT’

Bentrim, a mother of three and the ex-wife in litigation dating to 2009, also filed an ethics complaint against the judge. It’s one of several complaints naming Francis to the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) that have come to light.

Florida Bulldog reported last month that Francis lied on her application for a gubernatorial appointment to the state’s highest court when she falsely certified that she’d never had a complaint filed against her with the JQC.

The Supreme Court isn’t duty-bound to take up Downey’s petition claiming Francis repeatedly violated Bentrim’s rights and asking the court to either remove Francis from the case or order her to handle it correctly. According to the petition, Francis didn’t notify Bentrim about upcoming hearings, then held them, listened only to the ex-husband’s lawyer and accepted his uncontested statements as facts.

Judge Francis
Judge Renatha Francis

Now that Francis has stepped away from the case, the justices will likely say the matter is moot. They can quietly drop Bentrim’s petition, removing what they may see as an impediment to Francis’s smooth transition from West Palm Beach family court to the marbled rotunda in Tallahassee.

Francis is one of six nominees for Gov. Ron DeSantis’s consideration, but he reportedly told the justices he wants her to replace retiring Justice Alan Lawson. Francis, who would be the first Jamaican-American black female justice, is a conservative “originalist” like the governor’s previous picks.

DeSantis tapped Francis for the high court two years ago. Then he was forced to choose appellate judge Jamie Grosshans instead, as Francis hadn’t been a licensed lawyer for a full 10 years.

She crossed that threshold but her competence, fairness and honesty have been questioned in complaints to the JQC. The commission treats complaints against judges as confidential unless it decides to charge them with ethics violations.

ADDITIONAL FRANCIS COMPLAINTS

Asked in her May 18, 2022 Supreme Court application if she’s ever been the subject of a JQC complaint, Francis answered “No.”

Fred Karlinsky, chair of the separate nominating commission that put Francis’s name on the shortlist for DeSantis, said many JQC complaints are processed and cleared “without the judge ever being notified of their existence.”

He suggested Francis may not have known there were complaints against her and therefore answered the question truthfully. Under JQC rules, however, once complaints survive an initial screening for frivolous filings, the judges are notified and given an opportunity to respond.

Francis has not responded to numerous requests for comment from Florida Bulldog.

Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, said she knew about three JQC complaints against Francis. She identified two of the filers as Bentrim and Winter Park lawyer Cheney Mason. Mason did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.

Recently Florida Bulldog learned of two other Francis complaints that Thompson wasn’t told about, bringing the total to five. One of the additional complaints could not be obtained but the filer, who contacted Florida Bulldog, is a party in an ongoing child custody case before Francis.

The other filer is Frederic Bouin, a Parisian art dealer who for many years has been battling his Palm Beach-based ex-wife over his relationship with their now-teenage son.

‘SHE’S JUST REALLY COLD’

“I have explained numerous times to Judge Francis that I am not an attorney, and having to represent myself, I may not always do it correctly or in proper form, but I always implore the judge to understand that I am fighting for my son,” Bouin wrote in his Oct. 28, 2021 JQC complaint.

“She never seems to care that I am doing this on my own or that a young boy is hurting. If you research/review any transcripts of the trial or hearings, you will see she completely lacks empathy and just shuts me down,” he wrote.

“To me she’s just really cold,” said Denisha Robinson, who is fighting the father of their two daughters over his paternity and her allegations of child abuse. Robinson also described Francis as “very dismissive and sarcastic,” adding that the judge once “threw a small tantrum” in court.

Robinson said she filed a JQC complaint and promised to share it with Florida Bulldog, but apparently changed her mind. 

Although Francis’s promotion to the Supreme Court would mean Robinson gets a new judge, she said she hopes that doesn’t happen.

“She’s harmful as a family court judge,” Robinson said. “I don’t see how making her a justice would be beneficial to anyone.”

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Latest comments

  • Judge Francis had no interest in the future or mental health of my child when she decided that my son didn’t need a father and blindly followed the orders of Mr. Tom Sasser, my ex-wife’s very influential attorney who Was parried to a judge connected to Reneta Francis . .my ex wife psychological evaluation by dr Shope ‘s shows I should have full custody . I call it a kidnapping or a “legalized kidnapping”. While the judicial system may hate that word to describe it, the fact is, it has become another unfortunate pandemic situation and reality for so many good fathers going through divorces in USA, (a self-proclaimed civilized democracy). This judge shouldn’t be judge at all, let alone sit on the Supreme Court. How can any judge or lawyer sleep at night knowing they are the reason for ripping a dad from a kid’s life? This lack of empathy says a lot about their mental state. These lawyers that think they are smart or good because they found ways to manipulate judges and get away doing defamation of their opponent. It has been said that a good divorce lawyer today is one who is an expert at destroying the image of the opponent, which they do by manipulating truths and fabricating lies. It is disgraceful, and shame on any judge that cannot see through it, or purposely (as in my case) doesn’t want to see through it. Millions of kids don’t know their dads in this country. They are told their father’s abandoned them…when it is not true for most of them. We are fabricating our own unstable society by refusing to change our system. Bottom line…A corrupt judge who is a puppet for powerful attorneys can’t be a fair judge. They make decisions all the time without considering the real and complete story because they have the power to simply remove or not allow important pieces of information be used in court. The current system is about hiding the truth, not bringing it out or even trying to know it. This is self-destruction at work. This is what people should be marching in the street about. Everyone should be protesting how fed up we are of the corruption and injustice in our judicial system. Precedents are used to simply NOT follow the law, sometimes doing the opposite of the law. Is any politician going to manifest a desire to fix the current system? Is everyone just giving up trying to even talk about making changes? What will it take for all of us to denounce it and force the debate? As for Judge Francis being considered for the highest court in the state…It is a complete joke! For one, she lied on her application, which is a felony! That in itself, should speak to her character. Or…maybe it isn’t a joke at all. Afterall, she has already proved she is easily manipulated and has been a puppet for powerful attorneys in the lower courts. Why stop there?

  • WOW! Seven recusal motions ignored until the Bulldog wrote the Story? THEN Judge Francis dumps the Case. WHY did the District Court ignore Judge Francis’s horrible bias? Are District Court Judge’s political now? Vote them OUT. Will the Supreme Court also ignore bias? Now that Governor DeSantis knows about this Judge, I can’t believe he would appoint her to the high Court. Thanks Ms. Marcus, for keeping us informed about this Judge’s abuse of court power!

  • There are FIVE complaints that are KNOWN So far against this judge !!! What about others that we don’t know about ??? Something isn’t right here !!?
    Wake up please DeSantis !!
    She can cause a lot of problems in the Supreme Court !!

  • Judge Francis is not qualified for the Bench and should be impeached for lying! After seeing Johnny Depp & Amber Heard Trial, everyone in AMERICA knows there’s two sides in a Trial — a Plaintiff and a Defendant. Judge Francis did not know?! In the on-line Petition, it says the Judge set and heard HALF a Trial but did not set the other side with it, all while ignoring SEVEN REQUESTS to be removed from the case until the BULLDOG shined the light on the complaints?! Check out Ms. Bentrim’s Trial. ONLY the Ex-husband’s case is set. Not her side! A “cold judge” who makes Pro se litigants feel defeated and unheard and THIS is a candidate for the Supreme Court? Governor DeSantis this Judge needs to resign or be impeached. A judge needs to remember her responsibilities to the people and be fair and impartial. She should not be promoted now that she has been exposed!

  • Thanks to the Bulldog paper posting the on-line Petition to the Supreme Court. Wow ! It lists really biased acts by Judge Francis against Ms. Bentrim that would make my head spin !! Three parents complaining about the same judicial abuse : Judge Francis‘s rude and condescending treatment in court . How many other pro se Parents were belittled? What is being done ?? These Complaints should not be confidential. There way to easy to hide .
    What has become of our justice system when Frederic Bouin’s complains Judge Francis being a puppet for powerful attorneys? These are pretty scary comments about the judge’s abuse of legal power. Where there is smoke there is FIRE . If she can’t be a fair judge and she lies on her Application why is she still in the Court ? What’s being done about this abuse ? Can she be trusted for the Highest Court ? Aren’t there BETTER candidates without this baggage ? When you can’t get justice from a court, what do you do ?

  • 1st Thanks to Bulldog for your high standards, REAL News & ethical reporters like Ms. Marcus. People are fed up with “narrative” news. We want Truth! Expose all Elites & fraudsters! Folks, get Bulldog’s Online real NEWS! So far, so good.
    NEXT to GOV. DeSantis: DROP the racial tokenism! Replace your “YES Men” with “Truthers”. Didn’t the Military teach you “YES Men” tell you what you want to hear & K.A. to get stuff back? The JNC & JQC failed to investigate & put YOU Governor in bad Light – dump them. Get the people’s Complaints & enlighten yourself. AND Kudos to Rep. Thompson for being a “Truther”. Great job!
    Finally, Ms. Bentrim so sorry to hear what this so-called-Judge put you through. I pray she’s the 1% of judges, but I expect we’ll hear more. My family prayed for yours & that your child returns home. Don’t give up Madam & God bless.

  • As a single mom who has been through the family court system, I know first hand how completely stressful it is. My mom has been in court for 12 years fighting for basic rights for my sisters. Most judges encourage relationships with BOTH parents. It’s the law. However Judge Francis does the exact opposite. While I am happy for my mom she will hopefully get a fair judge, think, how many other families this JUDGE will continue to hurt? Think, how many PEOPLE will be hurt if she’s raised to the Supreme Court? Hopefully, our family will finally get some peace. Thank you BULLDOG for investigating the injustices going on in the family court division—the law requires Judges to do what’s in the best interest of children who cannot speak for themselves! I hope the Governor, a PARENT too, choses wisely because this Judge is VERY scary!

  • The Supreme Court is a first line of defense protecting our children. It is important to appoint individuals with integrity!

  • GOVERNOR … YOU SERVED OUR COUNTRY. YOU are a PATRIOT like many of us. Certainly as a PATRIOT you are NOT appointing a NON.Patriot to highest Court in FLA? DON’T DO IT! ACTIONS TELL ALL. A JUDGE who denied Ms. Bentrim’s request for a “JURY TRIAL” which is a U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT, SAYS IT ALL. Agreed? Ms. FRANCIS is an opportunist and LIAR using her RACE to get ahead. For One who is NOT raised in the U.S.A. can you REALLY expect her to be LOYAL to our principals? BULLDOG PLS keep investigating this Woman — the bureaucrats have kept her FLAWS hidden.

  • Let’s not get all fired up by the Governor’s military service. He was a lawyer. A rear echelon (you know the rest.)

    It isn’t like he was humping a pack through the desert, he was pushing a pencil back at headquarter. It’s not a disgrace, but, not that much of an achievement.

  • THX to BULLDOG and Reporter Marcus for bringing the truth on Judge Francis to light. Our Office has received numerous calls from Parents, all with similar complaints! Families in distress; several litigants are filing Complaints with the Judicial Qualifications Commission adding to the five Complaints the paper reported. Mail to: PO Box 14106; Tallahassee, FL 32317.
    If you’ve been treated with distain and soured on the Judicial System; SAY something.
    Make your voice heard. Go ONLINE to: https://floridajqc.com/complaint-form/

  • A friend received an order signed by this judge and of course I had to look her up. Thank god I found this ! How can she still be allowed to sign any orders and still be giving cases after this ? What will happen with my friends case knowing this is happening in others. This is alarming.

  • Judge Francis is not fit to hold office, hope DeSantis does not hire this Ill equip human to hold office.

  • We have serious corruption with our family court judges here in Florida! They ignore child abuse, deny due process to present evidence, and attack victims of domestic violence who are forced to represent themselves in court. They collude with DCF to take children into state custody on top of it!

  • This judge declared me “not credible” after my physician ex-husband got drunk and high, vomiting and hit his head on the toilet in front of my then 9 year old, believing his story about getting food poisoning at Breakers Hotel establishment Echo Restaurant, and prompting her to call 911 scared to death. I had a recording between my childs phone and mine of him barely able to speak, but was not allowed to enter it into evidence. My child went back to him, only for him 2 months later to attack his wife high on cocaine and drunk in front of my child and theirs, resulting in a year long DCF investigation costing me close to $40k trying to protect my child, and then the DCF attorney for the guardian ad Litem program advocated for him saying I was alienating him. She did grant a “temporary suspension of his custody”, but that took months to get, all the while having to keep my child from school so he wouldn’t disappear with her. He ultimately went onto felony probation, but absconded a few months later, and has been a fugitive with 2 warrants for his arrest. It has been 2.5 years since he has seen my child, and life has been good for both of us. After asking to be able to get my childs passport so we can travel, she sent the case to trial because she thinks I may have ulterior motives in obtaining the passport. I just want a normal life with my child, and not be held hostage by this man, who is on the run with multiple warrants and a writ of bodily attachment against him. Why? I work full time, I just graduated university, I own my home, I pay my childs private school tuition, carry insurance for her, have her in therapy to deal with what he did, yet I am suspicious??? So first she throws her to the wolves and puts her into a dangerous position where she is in a house where known convicted drug dealers frequent, who bring their drugs with them and use them in her presence. Allows my child to be witness to drug use, domestic violence, drug dealers because why? He’s a doctor? She is safe now, thriving, and we just want NOT to be held hostage anymore! I am not asking for much, just a normal life. Do the right thing here.

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