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Beltran, Smith finalists for Florida appeals court

One is a current state representative and the other just lost a Hillsborough circuit court reelection bid.
Mike Beltran (left) and Jared Smith.
Mike Beltran (left) and Jared Smith. [ handouts ]
Published Nov. 4, 2022

State Rep. Mike Beltran and Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Jared Smith are among 18 nominees sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis for three seats on the newly created 6th District Court of Appeal.

Beltran and Smith are the only Tampa Bay area residents among the nominees for judgeships in the new district, which will cover 10 counties from Orange south to Collier, including Polk but not Hillsborough.

Beltran, a Lithia Republican, currently represents District 57 in southeast Hillsborough but is running for re-election Nov. 8 in the new District 70 covering Ruskin, Sun City Center and part of Manatee County. He’s the favorite against Democrat Eleuterio “Junior” Salazar Jr.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard law school, he clerked in the federal court in Tampa, then worked at two large firms and is now a solo practitioner handling civil and criminal cases. He was elected to the state House in 2018 and re-elected in 2020.

If he receives the appointment, he wouldn’t become a judge until the court opens Jan. 1, so his state House replacement would be chosen in a special election.

Smith, a graduate of Fort Hayes State University and Washburn University of Law, is an Air Force veteran of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps formerly assigned to MacDill Air Force Base.

He previously clerked for a Kansas state Supreme Court justice and later practiced commercial litigation in a Tampa firm. He was appointed to a Hillsborough county court judgeship in 2017 by Gov. Rick Scott, elected to that seat in 2018, then promoted to a circuit judgeship by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019.

This year, Smith lost in a contentious reelection campaign that focused heavily on reproductive rights, after an opinion he issued denying permission for an abortion without parental consent to a 17-year-old.