July 7, 2022

QUESTIONABLE ETHICS: Florida Supreme Court nominee in jeopardy as DeSantis pick’s lies are exposed

QUESTIONABLE ETHICS: Florida Supreme Court nominee in jeopardy as DeSantis pick's lies are exposed

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Records reveal Judge Renatha Francis, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ nominee for the Florida Supreme Court lied on her application, checking “No” when asked if the family court judge has been the subject of an ethics complaint – a response that is verifiably false. In November 2021, a complaint was filed with the Judicial Qualifications Commission by plaintiff Angela Bentrim who has been in a contentious post-divorce battle with ex-husband Jeffrey Bentrim for over a decade.

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The November 20th complaint, filed with the assistance of attorney Margherita Downey, accuses Francis not only of bias but failing to properly notify Angela Bentrim of upcoming hearings. Francis then used it against Angela Bentrim when she didn’t appear in court. Included in the complaint, written by Downey, was a detailed summary of almost 30 accounts of times during a three-month period when Bentrim was “denied due process of law” in Francis’ court.

According to watchdog news site Florida Bulldog, the complaint states:

“Without properly notifying Bentrim, Francis turned down her request for a jury trial; held ex-parte hearings with only Lewis, the ex-husband’s lawyer; granted the ex-husband’s motions for contempt and sanctions against the ex-wife, and denied the ex-wife’s motion to recuse and disqualify Francis, according to the document-based court records.”

The Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned the imposed sanction of $1200 and the contempt charge.

Five weeks before Judge Francis submitted her May 18th application to the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, the Judicial Qualifications Commission notified Angela Bentrim that it was rejecting her complaint against the West Palm Beach Judge.

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According to Florida Statutes Section 837.06, to knowingly make a false written statement “with intent to mislead a public servant in the performance of his or her official duty” is classified as a misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail. Bentrim’s attorney Margherita Downey stands behind her client’s accusation of bias. She said about appearing before Judge Francis: “When I appear in her court, it’s like watching a judge burn down our Flag.”

This poses the question: did Judge Francis know about the complaint when declaring on her application that she had answered all questions “truthfully, fully, and completely?” Rules of the Judicial Qualifications Commission mandate a judge under investigation must be notified. Bentrim’s complaint was reviewed twice per the rejection letter Bentrim received from JQC executive director, Blan Teagle. And according to Florida Bulldog, “That cannot happen unless the judge who is the subject of a complaint is notified and offered an opportunity to respond.

This is the second time Francis has been up for a seat on the bench of Florida’s highest court. In 2020, DeSantis was forced to choose another nominee due to Francis’ failure to meet the required 10 years as an attorney. The judge who took DeSantis to court over the issue, and won – was Rep. Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando). Who at the time said Francis was the “least qualified” of the seven African-American lawyers in consideration in 2020. Thompson also weighed in on the controversy surrounding Francis’ falsified application – Thompson claims to know of at least two other ethics complaints against the West Palm County judge – “the whole thing is a charade,” she said, “you don’t want a person who’s proven to be dishonest on the Florida Supreme Court.”

Original source: Florida Bulldog

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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