Judge Karen Mills Francis
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Judge Karen Mills-Francis
Judge Karen Mills-Francis has a colorful and engaging style that is as distinctive as her bold burgundy robe and her bright blonde hair. As quick to aid the helpless as she is to dismiss the hare-brained, Judge Karen confidently dished out justice to a national television audience with the half-hour syndicated courtroom series, Judge Karen. She is famous for the lines "Stay in your Lane, I know how to Drive". For fall 2010 Judge Karen will be back in session with Judge Karen's Court. Along with the new season Judge Karen will be debuting "Stay In Your Lane: A Guide to Living Your Best Life," a book of anecdotal essays aimed at uplifting and advising readers towards a happier and healthier existence.Born and raised in Miami, FL Judge Karen was the oldest of five ambitious children and she graduated as the valedictorian of her high school class. Judge Karen completed her undergraduate education at the prestigious Bowdoin College in Maine on a full scholarship and she spent summers studying at the University of Wisconsin. After graduation, she worked in the public welfare sector in areas such as job training and helping welfare recipients to gain employment. She graduated from the Levin School of Law at the University of Florida in 1987.
Judge Karen practiced criminal defense law in Florida for 13 years in the Office of the Public Defender, as well as in private practice. She was appointed a Traffic Magistrate by the Dade County Chief Judge in 1998 to hear non-criminal traffic cases. She was also a family court mediator handling support, visitation, and divorce issues. Driven by the lack of diversity in the court system, Judge Karen decided to run for a judgeship in 2000, winning her first election by overthrowing a longtime incumbent and becoming the second black woman to serve on the bench in Miami-Dade County. Judge Karen was assigned to the misdemeanor crimes and the domestic violence units of the courts. She has handled cases in criminal, civil, and family court.
After twice being elected to the position of Miami-Dade County Judge, Judge Karen made it her mission to support those who are at risk of getting lost in the legal system. Inspired by her previous work at the public defender's office in the juvenile division, she has become known as an ardent backer of children's advocacy programs and domestic violence prevention programs and regularly calls on lawyers to act on behalf of children in crisis. She became a foster mother herself to a child she first encountered in court and over the years she has repeatedly opened her home to children in need.
When she is not working, Judge Karen supports many child advocacy programs, including the GEMS (Girls Empowered and Motivated for Success), and Casa Valentina transition program for girls in foster care.
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