Berny Jacques makes recommendations for judicial appointments. Do political donations sway his choice?

Berny Jacques 2
The 6th Judicial Nominating Commission has offered up names of donors to HD 59 candidates' campaign.

Berny Jacques will serve on the Judicial Nominating Commission in Pinellas County through 2024. But in the meantime, is he using the position to raise money for his state House run?

A review of contributions shows many of individuals who gave to the Seminole Republican’s campaign in House District 59 were later recommended for spots on the bench. In one case, a contribution was made within hours of the donor being recommended for a circuit court judgeship.

Jacques denies any relationship between campaign contributions and Commission attention.

“That has no bearing on the decision,” Jacques said. “The decision is made collectively by a number of Commissioners, and a donation to a campaign would never influence my decision.”

But he acknowledged many of the members of the legal community who ultimately receive recommendations by the Commission have been longtime friends and occasionally past supporters of his political ambitions.

The most notable confluence of events came in December. Jeffrey Albinson donated $50 to Jacques’ House campaign on Dec. 1. The following day, the 6th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission sent a list of six names to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Office to choose from to fill retiring Circuit Judge Linda Allan’s spot on the bench.

Ultimately, the job went to Pinellas County Judge Brian Gnage. But Albinson later appeared on a list of nominees to replace Gnage on the county court.

But the proximity of the donation and nomination even caught Jacques by alarm. The candidate, after being informed of the closeness of events, said he looked up records with the campaign and found Albinson’s donation was sent electronically at 8:21 p.m. in the evening. That was actually hours after the JNC met and voted on names around 5 p.m., though the list did not publish until the following day.

Jacques said if a donation had come while the Commission was still deliberating, he would have sent the check back. Because it arrived later, he never questioned the donation.

But that’s not the only time contributions preceded nominations. Philip Piazza gave $1,000 to Jacques: $500 on May 1, 2021 and another $500 on March 1 this year. The second donation was reported the same day Piazza’s name appeared on a list of nominees to replace Gnage on the Pinellas County Court, alongside Albinson.

Another person nominated for that job, Nicole Pearlman, donated $500 to Jacques in June after her name appeared on the list, but her husband, Lee Pearlman, donated $1,000 last year.

Samantha Sealy also donated money to Jacques on May 1, 2021, just $25. She ended up nominated three months later.

Jacques, for his part, said he’s been friends with Sealy for years, and he does accept donations from longtime friends and professional associates. But when the Judicial Nomination Commission is called into session, he does not solicit donations nor will he accept them if they come in during the time when the Commission is considering and interviewing candidates.

He could only recall one instance of that happening, and his treasurer voided a check so it was never even reported.

“Even with personal friends, I would not accept a donation during a session,” he said.

Jaques is running for an open seat and faces Dipak Nadkarni and Jennifer Wilson in the Republican Primary. Democrat Dawn Douglas is also running.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • just sayin

    July 26, 2022 at 8:10 am

    If this guy really were selling appointments, wouldn’t someone who only donated $25 or $50 be left off out of spite?

    • Kurt McDonald

      July 26, 2022 at 2:49 pm

      The guy gave a political contribution the same day he was interviewed by the JNC Berny is part of, and we’re supposed to believe that’s a coincidence?And we’re supposed to believe the same order of events occurred multiple times and it’s all a coincidence? Jacques must think we are all too dumb to see this for what it is: corruption.

  • Joe Corsin

    July 26, 2022 at 8:22 am

    Vote RED for rich people brainwashing and grifting idiots
    Vote RED for abominable far right propaganda
    Vote RED for religious law and right wing police state
    Vote RED for low wage slavery

    • Grammy

      July 26, 2022 at 4:35 pm

      I think you have your red and blue and left and right mixed up.

  • Jack Ash

    July 26, 2022 at 9:35 am

    This guy isn’t even a practicing lawyer. Those nominating sessions are probably the extent of his interactions with members of the legal community. If they are supporting his political ambitions, I doubt it’s because they respect his reputation as a lawyer.

  • Sean Jones

    July 26, 2022 at 11:17 am

    The phrase “Quid Pro Quo” comes to mind as I read this…

  • SNP

    July 26, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    I think this is disgusting and grossly false. How can a little town in Florida have this ugly of a race.

    • Gary Richards

      July 26, 2022 at 5:14 pm

      Which part, the part with the facts with dates and times, the parts with the Judges advancement or the part with the record of donations?

      • Steve Tuttle

        July 26, 2022 at 9:11 pm

        Yeah I’m sure these accomplished attorneys who Berny had never worked with before all just miraculously thought to themselves, “hey I wonder if that one inexperienced JNC member happens to be running for office…and if he is, I should definitely donate…and since I’m not politically involved I should have no trouble tracking any of that info down, without the guy even knowing I donated!”
        Yeah, right.

  • David Happe

    July 27, 2022 at 6:55 am

    I don’t like Berny. Rino

  • Heather Bowen

    July 27, 2022 at 8:27 am

    Wait a second. Did he just admit to having his treasurer “void” a donation without bothering to report it? I don’t think that’s allowed under campaign finance laws. Wow. Berny Jacques seems like a special guy.

    • Jack Ash

      July 27, 2022 at 9:13 am

      Yep. He says in this article that he only recalls one time when he accepted/solicited a campaign contribution when the JNC was in session. And that his treasurer “voided the check” to erase the evidence. Nice. Who appointed this clown? It doesn’t look like he’s practiced law for a number of years. Why is he allowed to serve on this commission? He’s clearly abusing his public position.

      • Bobby Lee

        July 30, 2022 at 5:07 pm

        Wake up people. This story is promoted by Jennifer Wilson and the woke, New York capital supported wing of the Pinellas GOP. This swamp needs to be drained.

  • Eli Smith

    July 30, 2022 at 9:00 pm

    What a nothingburger of a story about $25 donations put on by Jennifer Wilson and Woke Corporate, inc.

    If Jacob Ogles wants to write a great story about corruption, he should write about how Rick Kriseman and Jennifer Wilson work together in the same Tampa lobbying office! How crazy is that? I am sure Kriseman won’t influence her at all…not!

    Hope Pinellas voters elect Berny to drain this woke swamp!

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704