Gov. DeSantis appoints ousted judge who blocked teen’s abortion to new appeals district
Ron DeSantis. Image via AP.

deSantis
A legal challenge the Florida Supreme Court rejected last week also claims the Judge doesn’t even live in the district.

Back in August, Hillsborough County voters gave Judge Jared Smith the heave-ho less than a year after he made headlines for denying a teen access to an abortion, citing her grades.

He’s set to leave the bench in less than two weeks. But by then, he’ll have an even better job, thanks to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

On Tuesday, DeSantis’ office released a list of three appointees to the new 6th District Court of Appeal. Smith, who has served on the 13th Judicial Circuit Court since the Governor appointed him there in September of 2019, was among them.

Smith ruled in January that an unnamed 17-year-old could not terminate her unwanted pregnancy. In his ruling, he questioned her “overall intelligence,” which he found to be less than average because “(while) she claimed that her grades were ‘Bs’ during her testimony, her GPA is currently 2.0. Clearly, a ‘B’ average would not equate to a 2.0 GPA.”

Florida law requires parental notification and consent for minors to obtain abortions. The teen asked the court to waive that requirement, which a Judge can do if it finds “clear and convincing evidence” the minor in question is “sufficiently mature.”

Smith decided she wasn’t. An appeals court later overturned Smith’s ruling.

But following subsequent outrage from progressive groups and the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June, Smith faced a reckoning at the ballot box. Voters decided by a 3.7-point margin that they preferred lawyer Nancy Jacobs — who had made two prior, but unsuccessful, runs for a judgeship — to serve on the bench instead of him.

That didn’t stop a nominating commission from including Smith’s name among 18 judicial recommendations for the newly created 6th District Court of Appeal.

Of those nominees, DeSantis selected Smith and Judges Joshua Mize and Keith White, both of the 9th Judicial Circuit.

DeSantis’ announcement of their appointments came less than a week after the Florida Supreme Court rejected a challenge, filed last month, over the eligibility of several appellate Judge candidates for the 5th and 6th districts.

Smith was among them, but not because of his judgment.

A campaign flyer for Jared Smith. Image via Jared Smith.

On Dec. 15, Justices tossed a complaint by Democratic Sen. Geraldine Thompson and Orlando lawyer Whitney Boan arguing two candidates for the 5th District and four for the 6th — including Smith — are ineligible because they live outside the districts’ jurisdictions.

Attorney General Ashley Moody disputed that assertion, contending that while Judges must live in their given district, they don’t have to meet that residency requirement until they are appointed.

The Supreme Court sided with Moody and the Governor less than 48 hours later. In a 13-page opinion, Chief Justice Carlos Muniz noted the Florida Constitution does not expressly prohibit the nomination of district non-residents.

“Given that the Constitution provides for a 60-day period between a Commission’s certification of nominations and the gubernatorial appointment deadline, and in the absence of clear textual direction to the contrary, we cannot say the Constitution imposes an ‘eligible at the time of nomination’ requirement,” he wrote. “Rather, we believe that the Constitution leaves to the commissions’ discretion whether to nominate only candidates who are residents at the time of nomination.”

Justice Renatha Francis, Ricky Polston, and Associate Justice Ivan Fernandez concurred fully with Muniz’s opinion. Justice Jorge Labarga concurred partially, writing that the Supreme Court should have weighed whether the Nominating Commissions for the appellate districts acted outside their rules in recommending nonresidents.

Justice Charles CanadayJohn Couriel, and Jamie Grosshans recused themselves from the case due to potential conflicts of interest. Canaday and Couriel were references for three candidates. Grosshans, meanwhile, is married to a member of the Nominating Commission for the 6th District of Appeal.

The 6th District, based in Polk County, will hear cases from Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lee, Orange, Osceola and Polk counties, which the 9th, 10th and 20th judicial circuits cover. The district will have nine judges.

Mize, a Winter Park resident, has served on the 9th Judicial Circuit in Orange County since 2021, when DeSantis appointed him to the post. Prior to that, he owned Mize Law, which the Florida Division of Corporations lists as being voluntarily dissolved in July 2021, and as an associated attorney at several other law firms.

He earned his juris doctor from the University of Florida and is currently assigned to domestic relations, according to his bio with the 9th District.

White, of Maitland, has served on the 9th Judicial Circuit Court since early 2011. He previously owned and ran his own, eponymous law practice.

His bio says he earned his law degree from Florida State University and has ruled over domestic, criminal and civil cases.

On Friday, DeSantis’ office announced the appointment of four Judges to the redrawn 5th District Court of Appeal. Two of the appointees, Florida Gaming Control Commissioner John MacIver and 15th Judicial Circuit Judge Paige Kilbane, were flagged in Thompson and Boan’s lawsuit as living outside the district.

Smith, who lives in Lakeland and operates in Hillsborough County, according to the Governor’s office, has been a Judge on the 13th Judicial Circuit Court since DeSantis appointed him there in September of 2019. He previously worked as a county Judge and in private practice as a partner at the Orlando-headquartered law firm of RumbergerKirk, which was called Rumberger Kirk & Caldwell when he worked there.

He earned his juris doctor from the Washburn University of Law in 2000, according to his biography with the 13th Judicial Circuit, which lists his current and past assignments as domestic violence, criminal and family court.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


11 comments

  • Rebecca

    December 20, 2022 at 9:18 pm

    Looking at Judge Smith, DeSantis continues to nominate judges who lack the stellar judgment and educational achievements one would normally expect for nominees to the Court of Appeal.

    • Phil Morton

      December 21, 2022 at 6:58 am

      Standard practice for this corrupt administration.

    • Joseph m JIampetti

      December 21, 2022 at 7:51 am

      He won he does an overwhelming majority of floridians support him as well the democrat party is extinct in our state

      • James R. Miles

        December 21, 2022 at 9:20 pm

        Obviously, the overwhelming majority of Floriduh voters are either very stupid of misinformed or a combination of both! DeSatan is a festered boil on the butt of Floriduh that needs to be lanced! Like all F’ing Republicants, he likes to take your rights away. As in denying a woman’s right to choose, denying parents the right to medically treat their transgender children not to mention his stance on masks and covid vaccines. He has however, made undertakers VERY happy!!

        • James R. Miles

          December 21, 2022 at 9:23 pm

          Thank God there was NO red wave nationally!

  • rust

    December 21, 2022 at 7:57 am

    Rona was hooked when he read: “I like beer.” on the resume.

  • W R Miller

    December 21, 2022 at 10:05 am

    This is the same governor who refused to testify for his decision to wrongfully fire an elected official in Tampa without cause, then gives the insurance companies over 3 billion dollars to bail them out. The question stands what has he done for the people of Florida

  • Bill

    December 21, 2022 at 2:01 pm

    Anti-Semitism much? The Judge’s wife speaks about an opponent who “needs Jesus” which is problematic because is Jewish.

    https://www.youtube.com/clip/UgkxgtuR2k3kZ6grjFmc80V7jgSpRLa2eC6W

    Anti-female much?: The Washington Post interviewed Blake Rocap who had the following to say about the girls who come into the legal system for permission to end their pregnancies at 17: ‘clients are particularly vulnerable and lack resources: Most teens in states that mandate parental notification or consent do involve their parent in the decision-making. Those who do not, he said, do not live with or have a strong relationship with their parents, or fear that their parents might harm them or kick them out if they talk to them about an abortion.”

    • Bill

      December 21, 2022 at 2:03 pm

      “she is Jewish”

    • cassandra

      December 24, 2022 at 1:27 pm

      Forced pregnancy of a 17 year old is violence, and Smith is a typical abuser. He should be in a jail with any other man —like desantis— who thinks he has a God given right to insert himself into women’s bodies against their will.

  • Ken

    December 21, 2022 at 6:53 pm

    This foolishness in Florida never ends.

Comments are closed.


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