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Judge John Renke (deservedly) thrown off bench

in Peter/Statewide by

“No one disputes that John Renke III is a good circuit judge. But the way he got on the Pinellas-Pasco bench makes him unfit to serve, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday. He is the 16th judge ordered removed from the bench in Florida since 1970 but the first removed solely for campaign violations. The ruling against Renke, 36, came in a harshly worded opinion that all but ends his 3 1/2 years of handling family law and probate in west Pasco.”

A post on the Buzz blog asked who Renke’s consultant was; his consultant was The Mallard Group. I was at TMG in 2002, although I was not involved in this campaign. The firm’s principal, Jack Hebert, personally handled this account.

Looking back, I knew at the time that this guy’s whole campaign was shady — and for me to call someone shady, that’s saying something. He never came to our office; instead his father handled all of his campaign decisions. I kept thinking, “This guy wants to be a judge, yet he needs his dad to do all of his work for him???”

Although some of the blame for the campaign may be the consultant’s (the mailpiece “A Judge with our values” was a Hebert piece, as was an atrociously negative mailpiece that attacked Declan Mansfield for representing owners of dogs who bit people ((Mary Repper, Mansfield’s consultant, actually called our office to bitch out Hebert on that one)) ), it was really his father who pushed for all of the stuff that got John in trouble.

However, the shit that the Supreme Court got John for was only the tip of the iceberg. I still can’t believe no one has gone back and looked at the funding for these multi-candidate/slate mailings by the Pasco and Pinellas GOP. This guy did not deserve to be on the bench and it’s time we stop giving away judicial positions to the most politically connected lawyers. Sometimes they are good, like Carassas or Jirotka, but one bad judge can do enormous damage.

Update: Troxler weighs in with a thought-provoking column that, while not defending Renke per se, questions a decision (that) further muddies an already muddy situation in Florida, where candidates for our more than 900 trial-level judgeships live under a strict set of rules on what they can and can’t say.

I still say good riddance!

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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