On Monday, September 18, 2023, the Florida Bulldog reported that Judge Darren Shull, a family court judge in Palm Beach Circuit Court, has been accused of taking a biased approach in his cases, favoring fathers over mothers and ignoring conflicting evidence. Despite complaints and disciplinary actions, Shull remains on the bench, and his controversial rulings continue to impact families.
Judge Shull was appointed to the Palm Beach Circuit Court in April 2022 by Governor Ron DeSantis. Prior to his appointment, Shull worked as a criminal defense lawyer, and his clients included Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez and Gov. Ron DeSantis. Shull’s connections to the governor and other high-ranking officials have raised concerns about his impartiality in family court cases. Three mothers, Andrea Spleha, Angela Bentrim, and Nanea Marcial, have filed complaints against Shull with the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) alleging bias and unfair treatment in their respective cases. The JQC is responsible for investigating misconduct charges against judges and making recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court for disciplinary action.
Spleha, Bentrim, and Marcial all report similar experiences with Shull, including ex parte orders, failure to consider conflicting evidence, and a general lack of impartiality. Marcial’s case is particularly concerning, as Shull has issued orders allowing her ex-husband, David Custin, to take their two sons away from her, despite her objections and concerns about their well-being.
Custin, a political consultant and lobbyist, has represented clients including Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez and Gov. Ron DeSantis. Marcial believes that Shull’s connections to these officials have influenced his decisions in her case. The JQC has received several complaints against Shull, but they have yet to take significant action against him. In response to Spleha’s and Bentrim’s complaints, the JQC sent them boilerplate letters dismissing their concerns and stating that the matters were “not allegations involving a breach of the Code of Judicial Conduct warranting further action by the Commission.”
The JQC has disciplined judges in the past for various offenses, including accepting freebie hotel stays, going AWOL from the bench, publicizing “scandalous information” about a political opponent, or mistreating staff members. However, there have been few instances of judges being disciplined for bias or mistreating parties in their cases.
Judge Shull’s use of ex parte orders has been a significant issue in several cases. Ex-parte orders are one-sided orders that are issued without giving the opposing party notice or an opportunity to present conflicting evidence. In the case of Karen Erren v. Eduardo Marin, Shull was removed from the case after he issued ex parte orders that favored Marin, the ex-husband.
Judge Darren Shull’s controversial rulings and alleged bias in family court cases have raised concerns about the impartiality of the judicial system. Despite complaints and disciplinary actions, Shull remains on the bench, and his decisions continue to impact families. The lack of action by the JQC and the court system highlights the need for greater accountability and transparency in the judicial system. It is essential that judges uphold the highest standards of impartiality and fairness, especially in family court cases where the well-being of children is at stake.
Source: Florida Bulldog