Florida voters decide abortion-denying judge not 'mature' enough to continue on the bench

In their zeal to turn women and others who become pregnant into second-class citizens with fewer rights than their male counterparts, some right-wing judges in particular have tried to cover their tracks by relying on ambiguous statutory language. This enables them to effectively cloak their (usually religious-based) motivations for punishing behavior they disapprove of by pretending to defer to their state legislatures, especially in cases where such matters are in reality left to their own discretion. Such was the case this January in Florida, when Judge Jared E. Smith of the Circuit Court of Hillsborough county, Florida, ruled that a 17-year-old young woman was insufficiently “mature” to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. The woman, identified only as “Jane Doe” due to her age, had sought judicial approval pursuant to the Florida law that allows pregnant minors an opportunity to escape the often-impossible task of obtaining their parents’ approval in order to obtain an abortion by seeking judicial “permission.” This type of cumbersome “judicial bypass” procedure, codified in 38 states, has been a means used by the religious right and its enablers in Republican state legislatures to further traumatize those who become pregnant while still paying lip service to their rights as protected by the law. (Now that Roe is overruled and abortion can be fully outlawed, these statutes in abortion-denying states will mostly become moot.) As acknowledged by the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, which quickly reversed his decision, Florida law required Smith to make a determination as to Jane Roe’s “maturity” before he could issue his edict: Section 390.01114(6)(c) requires the circuit court to ascertain whether there is clear and convincing evidence "that the minor is sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy." As reported by Carter Sherman, writing for VICE earlier this year, in his original ruling, Smith, an appointee of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, brought his vast judicial wisdom to bear in evaluating Jane Doe’s “maturity”: In his original ruling, Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Jared E. Smith focused on the fact that Doe had originally said she made “B” grades, but her current GPA is 2.0. “Clearly, a ‘B’ average would not equate to a 2.0 GPA,” Smith wrote. Doe’s “testimony evinces either a lack of intelligence or credibility, either of which weigh against a finding of maturity pursuant to the statute.” Smith then went out of his way to further justify his ruling, essentially inventing reasons to deny the young woman her rights. As Sherman reports, on appeal the District Court fairly “demolished” Smith’s findings: [A] ruling written by Judge Darryl Casanueva and joined by Judge Susan Rothstein-Youakim pointed out that if Doe is making “Bs,” then her current GPA may not reflect her newer grades. And, in any case, “we observe a ‘C’ average demonstrates average intelligence for a high school student,” Casanueva wrote. “The evidence certainly did not show that her overall intelligence was ‘less than average.’” The appeals court ruling also demolishes some of Smith’s other arguments that Doe shouldn’t get an abortion. While Smith used the fact that Doe doesn’t care for any younger family members to evaluate her emotional stability, Casanueva pointed out that Doe doesn’t have younger siblings. And while Smith said that Doe “has never had any financial responsibilities, even so much as paying her own cellphone bills,” Casanueva stressed that Doe works upwards of 20 hours a week, has $1,600 in savings and two credit cards, and pays for practically everything but the cellphone bills.   On Tuesday voters in Florida’s Group 37 went to the polls to decide whether Smith should be permitted to continue his tenure on the bench. As reported by Caitlin Cruz, writing for Jezebel, the answer was “no.” In a low-turnout election, Nancy L. Jacobs beat Smith by nearly 8,000 votes. Florida judicial elections are non-partisan, meaning the judges aren’t registered under a party. Still, there was indication of a partisan divide in the outcome. Jacobs solidly won the mail-in vote, 63,226 to 48,702, a trend seen among Democratic-leaning voters. Smith only marginally won the day-of voting, typically a Republican-heavy voting day. Voters in Florida seldom reject incumbent judicial candidates, and Smith’s ejection by the voters is even more remarkable in light of his endorsement by the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board. But as pointed out in an article written by Justin Garcia for Creative Loafing Tampa, Smith’s own wife may have sealed his fate this July by inadvertently revealing the true source of his judicial philosophy. Speaking alongside her smiling husband at a Christian church, Suzette Smith explained that her husband’s (Jewish) opponent, Jacobs, was in dire need of conversion. [In] a video sent to CL, his wife Suzette said that Jacobs needs to be saved by God while speaking to m

Florida voters decide abortion-denying judge not 'mature' enough to continue on the bench

In their zeal to turn women and others who become pregnant into second-class citizens with fewer rights than their male counterparts, some right-wing judges in particular have tried to cover their tracks by relying on ambiguous statutory language. This enables them to effectively cloak their (usually religious-based) motivations for punishing behavior they disapprove of by pretending to defer to their state legislatures, especially in cases where such matters are in reality left to their own discretion.

Such was the case this January in Florida, when Judge Jared E. Smith of the Circuit Court of Hillsborough county, Florida, ruled that a 17-year-old young woman was insufficiently “mature” to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. The woman, identified only as “Jane Doe” due to her age, had sought judicial approval pursuant to the Florida law that allows pregnant minors an opportunity to escape the often-impossible task of obtaining their parents’ approval in order to obtain an abortion by seeking judicial “permission.”

This type of cumbersome “judicial bypass” procedure, codified in 38 states, has been a means used by the religious right and its enablers in Republican state legislatures to further traumatize those who become pregnant while still paying lip service to their rights as protected by the law. (Now that Roe is overruled and abortion can be fully outlawed, these statutes in abortion-denying states will mostly become moot.)

As acknowledged by the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, which quickly reversed his decision, Florida law required Smith to make a determination as to Jane Roe’s “maturity” before he could issue his edict:

Section 390.01114(6)(c) requires the circuit court to ascertain whether there is clear and convincing evidence "that the minor is sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy."

As reported by Carter Sherman, writing for VICE earlier this year, in his original ruling, Smith, an appointee of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, brought his vast judicial wisdom to bear in evaluating Jane Doe’s “maturity”:

In his original ruling, Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Jared E. Smith focused on the fact that Doe had originally said she made “B” grades, but her current GPA is 2.0.

“Clearly, a ‘B’ average would not equate to a 2.0 GPA,” Smith wrote. Doe’s “testimony evinces either a lack of intelligence or credibility, either of which weigh against a finding of maturity pursuant to the statute.”

Smith then went out of his way to further justify his ruling, essentially inventing reasons to deny the young woman her rights. As Sherman reports, on appeal the District Court fairly “demolished” Smith’s findings:

[A] ruling written by Judge Darryl Casanueva and joined by Judge Susan Rothstein-Youakim pointed out that if Doe is making “Bs,” then her current GPA may not reflect her newer grades. And, in any case, “we observe a ‘C’ average demonstrates average intelligence for a high school student,” Casanueva wrote. “The evidence certainly did not show that her overall intelligence was ‘less than average.’”

The appeals court ruling also demolishes some of Smith’s other arguments that Doe shouldn’t get an abortion. While Smith used the fact that Doe doesn’t care for any younger family members to evaluate her emotional stability, Casanueva pointed out that Doe doesn’t have younger siblings. And while Smith said that Doe “has never had any financial responsibilities, even so much as paying her own cellphone bills,” Casanueva stressed that Doe works upwards of 20 hours a week, has $1,600 in savings and two credit cards, and pays for practically everything but the cellphone bills.  

On Tuesday voters in Florida’s Group 37 went to the polls to decide whether Smith should be permitted to continue his tenure on the bench. As reported by Caitlin Cruz, writing for Jezebel, the answer was “no.”

In a low-turnout election, Nancy L. Jacobs beat Smith by nearly 8,000 votes. Florida judicial elections are non-partisan, meaning the judges aren’t registered under a party. Still, there was indication of a partisan divide in the outcome. Jacobs solidly won the mail-in vote, 63,226 to 48,702, a trend seen among Democratic-leaning voters. Smith only marginally won the day-of voting, typically a Republican-heavy voting day.

Voters in Florida seldom reject incumbent judicial candidates, and Smith’s ejection by the voters is even more remarkable in light of his endorsement by the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.

But as pointed out in an article written by Justin Garcia for Creative Loafing Tampa, Smith’s own wife may have sealed his fate this July by inadvertently revealing the true source of his judicial philosophy. Speaking alongside her smiling husband at a Christian church, Suzette Smith explained that her husband’s (Jewish) opponent, Jacobs, was in dire need of conversion.

[In] a video sent to CL, his wife Suzette said that Jacobs needs to be saved by God while speaking to members of a Christian church.

"We pray for her, she needs Jesus," she said to a church crowd. "To deny God and to deny the Bible is a person that the heart is very hard toward God."

Without commenting directly on her opponent or his wife’s prior statements, newly elected Judge Nancy Jacobs provided a statement to BuzzFeed News:

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Jacobs said she looked forward to taking the bench in January and "ensuring that the people of Hillsborough County who enter my courtroom are treated with respect, dignity, and integrity every day."

 Sounds like Florida voters made the “mature” decision.