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High court shuts door on Renke as judge


The state Supreme Court denies his request for a rehearing, a month
after ordering him removed because of campaign misrepresentations.

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer


Published June 27, 2006

NEW PORT RICHEY - The Florida Supreme Court ended Circuit Judge John Renke III's
3½-year career on the bench Monday with just one word:

Denied.

The state's highest court refused the judge's request to rehear his case. That decision,
issued late Monday afternoon, immediately stripped Renke of the judicial powers he
earned in his controversial 2002 election to the Pinellas-Pasco bench.

Renke's attorney, Scott Tozian, said they knew it was unlikely the justices would grant
the motion.

"I've thrown every rock in my file," Tozian said. "So I think we're basically done. There's
nothing left to do but accept what the court's decision is."

Renke could not be reached for comment Monday. The 6th Judicial Circuit said senior
judges will divide his west Pasco docket of probate and family law cases with other
circuit judges.

The 37-year-old judge's fate was sealed May 25 when the Florida Supreme Court issued a
scathing decision ordering Renke removed from the bench for misrepresenting his
qualifications and using an illegal $95,800 campaign loan.

The money came from his father and ex-boss, former Republican state Rep. John Renke
II, who enlisted GOP help in that nonpartisan race.

Among the "flagrant misrepresentations" of the campaign, the court said: a brochure that
falsely portrayed Renke as an incumbent judge with the slogan "a Judge With Our
Values," and Renke's claim that he had "almost eight years of experience handling
complex civil trials in many areas" when the court found he had "little or no actual"
courtroom experience.
"In essence, Judge Renke and his cohorts created a fictitious candidate, funded his
candidacy in violation of Florida's election laws and successfully perpetrated a fraud on
the electorate in securing the candidate's election," the court said May 25.

"I'm sure it's terrible for him," Tozian said. But "Knowing it's coming and it happening
are two different things. I'm sure he's tremendously disappointed."

Renke drew his annual $139,497 salary while his last-ditch appeal was before the court.
He was removed from the state payroll at midnight Monday.

He is the 16th judge removed from the Florida bench since 1970. He is the first jurist
removed solely for campaign violations. Renke also was ordered to pay $8,209.68 for
document costs from his prosecution.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigated and prosecuted Renke, only
wanted him fined, suspended and reprimanded. The Florida Supreme Court went beyond
that, and JQC executive director Brooke Kennerly said that should send a clear message
to judicial candidates this election season.

"I think the court is saying that these cases have to be above and beyond," she said. "You
can't skirt the law. The canons are the canons. You have to abide by them.

"Hopefully this will help this upcoming election."

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