The Florida Bar handed down its written reprimand Friday to New Port Richey attorney John Renke II, who was found to have violated election laws by giving an illegal $98,500 loan to his son's 2002 judicial campaign. The Bar had harsh words for Renke, who also had to serve a 60-day suspension from practicing law and was ordered to pay about $8,000 in costs to the Bar. He couldn't be reached Monday.
Renke, 63, is a former lawmaker and Pasco GOP committeeman. His son, John Renke III, won that election for circuit judge but was thrown off the bench in 2006 for accepting the loan from his father and for misrepresenting his qualifications. He also served a suspension. Both Renkes are currently listed as members in good standing with the Bar.
The text of the reprimand follows:
Mr. Renke, you have been ordered by the Supreme Court of Florida to receive a public reprimand before the assembled members of the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar.
By order of the Supreme Court of Florida dated February 12, 2009, you were found to have engaged in professional misconduct when:
You made illegal donations to your son's judicial campaign and disguised the payments as compensation for earned legal fees. You paid your son a share of the fees prior to final court approval of a settlement, thus you were not entitled to the fees at the time you paid a portion of them to your son. Your conduct amounted to unlawful campaign contributions and constituted a third degree felony although you were never criminally prosecuted.
Furthermore, you gave contradictory, misleading and evasive testimony before the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) during their investigation and prosecution of your son, John K. Renke III. The Supreme Court of Florida entered an order removing your son from the bench and finding that you had misrepresented the timing and nature of the payments made to your son.
Part of the oath you took prior to becoming a member of The Florida Bar stated: "I will maintain the respect due the courts of justice and judicial officers" and "I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law." The lawyers of Florida expect your future conduct to be in compliance with your oath and you should demand the same of yourself.
In addition to this public reprimand, the court ordered a 60-day suspension.
Mr. Renke, your actions and unethical behavior constitute violations of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. Your conduct in this matter was the focus of extensive media coverage and diminished the public's perception of not only you and your son, but all members of The Florida Bar.
This Public Reprimand is now part of your permanent Florida Bar disciplinary record.