Gov. Ron DeSantis today, amid a series of judicial appointments, named Kenneth Janesk II of St. Augustine to serve as a circuit court judge in the Seventh Judicial Circuit, which includes Flagler, Volusia, St. Johns and Putnam counties.
Janesk has been a prosecutor in the Seventh Circuit State Attorney’s Office since 2011, working as the managing attorney of the Putnam County office. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and his law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law. He is married to Jennifer Dunton, the Assistant State Attorney assigned to the Flagler office who is currently on maternity leave. Obviously, Dunton would not argue cases before Janesk, who is likely to be assigned in Putnam County.
The appointment fills the position vacated by Circuit Judge Patti A. Christensen, who stepped down at the end of September. Starting in April 2018 she was assigned to preside over the civil division in Putnam County and the probate division in Flagler. That opened the seat to an appointment by the governor, from a short-list of candidates interviewed by the Seventh Judicial Circuit’s nominating commission by Zoom on Oct. 30.
The opening drew 10 applicants. Five were short-listed. Those included Bryan Rendzio, whom Bunnell’s Alicia Washington defeated with 52 percent of the vote, taking nearly 100,000 votes, in the Aug. 18 primary. Washington, who is of mixed race, had applied again and again for appointment through the Judicial Nominating Commission process over the years, was shortlisted again and again, and was passed over by governors again and again.
Former Gov. Rick Scott had appointed Rendzio to the bench in January 2019. Despite voters’ sentiment, the nominating commission–in what has always been a sharply political process–included Rendzio on its short-list. His competitors included fellow-prosecutor Mark Johnson, G. Kipling Miller, the Daytona Beach attorney, Thomas R. Pycraft Jr. of St. Augustine, and and Kevin Sharbaugh of Interlachen.
DeSantis today also appointed Mary Alice “Molly” Nardella of Winter Garden to the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach, which hears appeals from Flagler and 12 other counties.
Nardella has been a partner with Nardella & Nardella since 2017, leading the firm’s estates and trust departments. She previously served as an Associate with Rumberger, Kirk and Caldwell P.A. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and her law degree from the University of Florida College of Law. Nardella fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Justice Jamie Grosshans to the Florida Supreme Court. In July 2014, Scott had appointed Nardella to the 9th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission, and was currently its vice chair. She’s been named a Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star nine successive years starting in 2012.
Other DeSantis appointments announced today include Jeb Branham of Jacksonville Beach, to serve on the Fourth Circuit Court, Kevin Kohl of Lake Wales to serve as Judge on the Polk County Court, Edward Dyer of Panama City to serve as Judge on the Bay County Court, and Brian Gnage of Pinellas Park to serve as Judge on the Pinellas County Court.
A release from the governor’s office oddly boasted of the governor “highlighting a record-setting year of appointments to the bench,” with 61 in 2020, for a total of 117.