The findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court, alleging violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Florida Constitution by Honorable Scott C. DuPont, Circuit Judge for the 7th Judicial Circuit, were filed after our close of business Thursday February 15, 2018 and obtained by Historic City News on Friday morning.
On November 23, 2016, the Investigative Panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission filed a notice of formal charges against Judge DuPont; amended August 16, 2017. The panel conducted its final hearing on December 11-12, 2017.
According to Lauri Waldman Ross, Esquire; counsel to the FJQC Hearing Panel, the amended charges allege that Judge DuPont:
- recklessly posted false or misleading information about an opponent and his family on a website created by his judicial campaign in a contested 2016 election
- made false or misleading statements at a televised judicial forum that his opponent was ticketed for passing a school bus while it was loading or unloading children, and he had cheated during a Volusia County straw poll
- announced at the same judicial forum that it was not the role of a circuit judge to determine the constitutionality of statutes, because this would be “legislating from the bench”
- made unspecified personal attacks on his opponent at a 2010 judicial campaign
- presided over a hearing when one side was unavailable due to a traffic accident, and the other side was present in City of Palm Coast, Florida v. The Group Golf of Palm Coast, LLC, Flagler County Case No 2016-CA-000639
- held first appearance hearings around his campaign schedule, conducted these earlier than noticed, without counsel present, and significantly increased bonds at such hearings
- held the victim of a domestic violence case in contempt, ordering her indefinitely incarcerated, unless she and her child underwent psychological evaluations
- ordered a deputy sheriff to search and seize the valuables of a party appearing before him in a domestic matter, when that party asserted an inability to pay support
In reporting their findings, the panel wrote, “We examine judicial misconduct for present fitness to hold office from two perspectives: its effect on public trust and confidence in the judiciary as reflected by the judge’s standing in the community, and the degree to which past misconduct points to future misconduct fundamentally inconsistent with the responsibilities of judicial office.”
The Hearing Panel rejects the notion that Judge DuPont merely made “mistakes” or was “careless” in the course of a heated judicial campaign.
Judge DuPont’s conduct “was not simply the product of an isolated instance of indiscretion, a momentary lapse of judgment; or the exposure of human frailty from which we all suffer from time to time,” the panel concluded. “The conduct here was repeated, intentional, direct action with a designed purpose which cast aspersions and doubt onto the heart of the judicial system and the elected judicial office sought.”
Judge DuPont’s conduct, taken as a whole, “is fundamentally inconsistent with the responsibilities of judicial office,” the panel concluded.
“All of the Hearing Panel’s findings were supported by clear and convincing evidence,” Hearing Panel chairman Eugene Pettis, Esquire wrote. “The vote of the Hearing Panel on guilt, as well as the recommended discipline, has been determined by an affirmative vote of at least two thirds of the six hearing panel members.”
The Florida Supreme Court will make the final decision on DuPont’s fate. Henry M. Coxe, III, Esq. and Brian Coughlin, Esq. represented the FJQC Investigative Panel. Rutledge T. Liles, Esq. and Pamela H. Klavon, Esq. represented Judge DuPont.
The information contained in this article is taken from sources deemed reliable; the accuracy and completeness of which Historic City News does not control and cannot guarantee. The original public records are on file and the entire 837-page transcript should be consulted before taking any action. First reports of these findings and recommendations were sourced to the Communications Officer of the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court in error. The details should be properly attributed to Chairman Pettis and the panel members and are taken from the 43-page filing to the Florida Supreme Court made February 15, 2018 at 5:31:11 p.m. In addition to Pettis, the panel included the Honorable Steven P. DeLuca, the Honorable Robert Morris, John Cardillo, Esq. (ad hoc), Harry Duncanson (lay member) and Walter H. (“Rickey”) Ricks (lay member/ad hoc).