TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission has found probable cause to bring charges against Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Nancy Jacobs, according to recently-filed court documents.

The commission, which was formed to investigate alleged misconduct by Florida state judges, alleged Jacobs made “inappropriate and disparaging remarks” about her opponent last year.

Jacobs defeated the incumbent Circuit Judge Jared Smith, who made headlines earlier that year for a ruling on a Tampa-area teenager’s request for an abortion without parental consent. In the Jan. 2022 ruling, Smith wrote that the 17-year-old was not mature enough to get an abortion, citing her 2.0 grade point average, among other things.

According to court documents filed Thursday, remarks about the case were posted to Jacobs’ campaign social media accounts, saying Smith “ordered (the teenager) to have forced birth.” The campaign also called smith a “scary man” and decried his suspected “anti-abortion views.”

The race between Jacobs and Smith focused on abortion and the role religion plays for those on the judicial bench. As cited in the court documents formally charging Jacobs, she questioned if Smith’s religious beliefs influenced his ruling.

“Religion is important but it seems to be it has wrapped up his entire life… your God and your Bible should not be your moral compass… you need to set those things at the door and make a decision as a judge and do your job as a judge, and that is what sets me apart from my opponent as well,” Jacobs said at a campaign forum in July 2022.

Jacobs was accused of sending a text message to a citizen saying her opponent was “a bigot, an anti-Semite…not a good person… hates me and people like me.”

The court documents allege Jacobs sought an endorsement from the Florida Planned Parenthood PAC, which “appeared to be a commitment to ruling a certain way in cases involving abortion,” the commission wrote in its notice. The PAC tweeted its congratulations to Jacobs after she won the primary.

Jacobs was accused of “inappropriately (injecting) partisan politics into the strictly non-partisan judicial campaign” by accepting an endorsement from Indivisible Action Tampa Bay, “an expressly partisan organization whose stated mission is to … ‘defeat…right wing takeover of American government’,” court documents stated.

The notice stated Jacobs “has admitted to the conduct and that it violated the Code of Judicial Conduct” in each of the six charges against her.

When reached for comment, Jacobs’ attorney, Brian Tannebaum of Miami, provided the following statement:

“Judge Jacobs has served the people of Hillsborough County well and looks forward to continuing to fairly and impartially administer justice.”

Brian L. Tannebaum

After losing to Jacobs in the 2022 election, Smith was appointed to the Sixth District Court of Appeal by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

According to the Qualifications Commission, Jacobs has 20 days to file a response to the charges before appearing at a hearing. If she is found to have violated the rules of conduct, the commission could recommend disciplinary measures, including removal from the bench.

The Florida Supreme Court will have the final word.