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Appellate judge faces deposition in a campaign case against a Hillsborough County circuit judge

Florida is fighting an attempt to block key parts of a new law that places additional restrictions on public-employee unions.
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Florida is fighting an attempt to block key parts of a new law that places additional restrictions on public-employee unions.

Jared Smith, a judge on the 6th District Court of Appeal, will not be shielded from testifying in a disciplinary case against Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Nancy Jacobs about conduct during a 2022 election campaign.

An appeals-court judge will not be shielded from testifying in a disciplinary case against a Hillsborough County circuit judge about conduct during a 2022 election campaign, a hearing officer ruled Friday.

Jared Smith, a judge on the 6th District Court of Appeal, filed a motion last week asking the state Judicial Qualifications Commission to quash a subpoena issued by attorneys for Circuit Judge Nancy Jacobs.

But Gregory Coleman, a hearing officer for the commission, rejected the motion and said Smith can be deposed for two hours.

The commission is pursuing a disciplinary case against Jacobs, who in a 2022 election defeated Smith, who was then a Hillsborough County circuit judge. Gov. Ron DeSantis subsequently appointed Smith to the appeals court.

An investigative panel of the commission in September alleged that Jacobs made “inappropriate and disparaging” remarks about Smith during the election and improperly injected partisan politics into the campaign. But Jacobs has also accused Smith of acting improperly during the campaign and sought to take his deposition.

Coleman wrote Friday that the ruling on the deposition is “not a determination that Judge Smith’s testimony is relevant, or will lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”

He also wrote that a review of a document filed by Jacobs in the case suggests “an effort by the respondent (Jacobs) to try her election opponent in these proceedings, rather than defending herself. … However, the respondent should have the opportunity to take Judge Smith’s deposition and attempt to develop relevant and admissible evidence before such determination is made.”

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has authority to investigate alleged wrongdoing against judges and make recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court, which has ultimate disciplinary power.

Updated: February 12, 2024 at 2:02 PM EST
This story has been updated with a corrected headline. Jared Smith, a judge on the 6th District Court of Appeal, faces deposition in the disciplinary case, not Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Nancy Jacobs.