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Supreme Court Orders Flagler’s Judge Scott DuPont Removed in Unanimous Decision

| June 26, 2018

Scott DuPont in Palm Coast during the 2016 election campaign. (© FlaglerLive)

Scott DuPont in Palm Coast during the 2016 election campaign. (© FlaglerLive)

The state Supreme Court on Monday removed Circuit Judge Scott DuPont because of improper conduct during a 2016 election campaign and other actions while on the bench in Putnam and Flagler counties.

In the unanimous decision, the court ordered Scott’s removal at 5 p.m. Monday. DuPont had not been hearing cases since February. The decision formalizes an order by Raul Zambrano, chief judge of the 7th Judicial Circuit, who ordered him to clear out of the Flagler and Putnam courthouses and forbade him to set foot back into the buildings unless he had personal business there.

DuPont was elected to the bench in 2010.

The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates wrongdoing by judges, recommended that DuPont be taken off the bench after a hearing panel found numerous violations of judicial canons, including an allegation that DuPont published false allegations online about his 2016 election challenger, Malcolm Anthony, and Anthony’s family members.

The investigation also found that, during a candidate forum in 2016, DuPont said that he would not find a state law unconstitutional “because it’s not my job to legislate from the bench,” a “blatant violation” of judicial canons that ban judges from predetermining how they will decide on certain cases.

The panel also took issue with DuPont for changing the times of first-appearance hearings in criminal cases during Memorial Day weekend in 2016 to accommodate his campaign schedule. DuPont admitted he “made a poor decision” but “simply could not say why he started the hearing early,” according to court records.

The commission was especially concerned about information DuPont posted online about Anthony during DuPont’s re-election campaign two years ago.

DuPont “imputed criminality to his opponent’s wife and daughter on his website,” a report by the commission’s hearing panel said.

“He disseminated false and misleading information that Anthony employed aliases, posed as an imposter, and was ‘booked’ for arrest,” the report said.

DuPont was warned repeatedly “not to publish the woefully deficient ‘opposition research’ gathered, both verbally and in writing, by his campaign manager and judicial colleagues,” according to the report.

DuPont’s campaign website represented that Anthony’s daughter had been arrested 23 times, when in fact she had never been arrested, lawyers representing the Judicial Qualifications Commission wrote on April 11.

“This behavior is beyond reckless,” they wrote.

But, arguing that the judge should not be removed from office, DuPont’s lawyer, Rutledge Liles, wrote that the commission was attempting to “fan the flame of prejudice” to get the judge kicked off the bench.

“In essence, what we are faced with is an effort to pile on Judge DuPont in an attempt to show a pattern of conduct justifying his removal,” Liles wrote in a response filed April 30.

DuPont “admitted his carelessness and has in no fashion attempted to defend what occurred as acceptable conduct” regarding the alleged elections violations, Liles wrote.

The judge maintained he “acted in good faith” with “the honest belief” that the information given to him about his opponent was accurate, according to the court documents.

“In this context, it defies common sense to think that an incumbent judge would intentionally manufacture false allegations against an opponent,” Liles wrote. “Careless or reckless publication amounts to negligence and conduct of a rash or unwise nature. It is distinguishable from an evil motive or intent.”

But the judge’s insistence that he didn’t know the information was faulty at the same time he claimed to accept responsibility for the ethical lapse didn’t jibe with the lawyers representing the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

“Acceptance of responsibility is not to repeatedly testify before the Hearing Panel that you relied on others and yet voice the magic words, ‘I accept responsibility,’ ” lawyers for the commission wrote, adding that DuPont’s testimony to the commission “was, at times, not worthy of belief.”

Monday’s order removing DuPont from the bench is the latest action from justices who have grown increasingly intolerant of ethical and behavioral lapses by judges.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission’s recommendation of removal relied in part on former Chief Judge Terence Perkins, who accused DuPont of heavy-handedness when dealing with defendants and told the commission he received more complaints about DuPont than any other judge.

Perkins said he never assigned DuPont to a felony division because he “was fearful he would constantly have to react to Judge DuPont ‘putting people in jail all the time,’ ” lawyers for the commission wrote in April. Perkins is now sitting on Flagler’s felony and civil benches, part of a broad reorganization triggered in part by DuPont’s exit.

But Liles took issue with the commission’s reliance on Perkins’ negative remarks about the judge, pointing out that Perkins also authored a letter praising DuPont’s character.

And Liles dismissed DuPont’s alleged “heavy handedness” by reminding the court that Putnam County is one of the poorest in Florida. Along with Putnam and Flagler, the circuit also includes St. Johns and Volusia counties.

Putnam County “had a lot of trouble with ‘crime, domestic violence, violence and truancy, and things of that nature,” according to another 7th Circuit judge, according to Liles’ April 30 response.

DuPont should be applauded for “his efforts to clean up Putnam County and restore some semblance of order,” his lawyer advised the court.

The county “has the highest child rape statistic per capita” in Florida, has “the highest teen pregnancy rate” and has the highest divorce rate, according to DuPont’s testimony.

“Against this backdrop, should ‘putting people in jail all the time’ and being ‘heavy handed’ in dealing with the domestic violence and crime be given even a moment’s notice as, is it unreasonable for a judge, who is presiding over a particular case, hearing the seriousness of the charges first hand, to exercise discretion and judgment?” Liles wrote.

Monday’s order removing DuPont from the bench will be followed by a full order later.

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida, and FlaglerLive

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13 Responses for “Supreme Court Orders Flagler’s Judge Scott DuPont Removed in Unanimous Decision”

  1. Just The Truth says:

    Disgraceful. Politicians are coming up corrupt from the Oval Office on down, now our judges.

    What is going on in this world, everyone seems to have lost their morals.

  2. Anonymous says:

    To Just The truth: “They” have taken God out of almost every public establishment and event. Without God and those brought up in Godly homes we will see our world degenerate into evil and KAOS.

  3. Stretchem says:

    God has been intertwined with humanity since our cognitive evolutionary beginnings. Perhaps your God is the reason for the “KAOS”?

  4. Kathy says:

    So, in a situation like this does every case he touched get re-opened? Or at least reviewed?

  5. Marty Barrett says:

    Anonymous, I’m sorry, but that comment is idiotic. This guy was a Bible thumping menace. The problem isn’t the lack of God in the schools, it’s the continued belief of the religious in their imaginary friend in the sky.

  6. Jailbird says:

    If you were to google my name, the first thing to appear online is my mugshot. My wife as well. This is the lasting reminder of our brief encounter with former judge Scott DuPont. I detailed our ordeal in a post last year when his investigation began. To summarize, being five minutes late to a very minor civil hearing was enough to have Judge DuPont find us in contempt of court, handcuffed and taken away to jail. Sometimes I wonder just how many others there are out there, victims of Dupont’s 7 year reign of terror. His outrageous behavior was apparent just a few months into his first term of office. This went on for 7 full years before the complaints were so numerous that it could no longer be ignored. I thank the commission and the Supreme Court for finally removing this man from the bench but I still can’t fathom why this was permitted to go on for so long. His boss would not allow him to hear felony cases fearing he may put too many people in jail. At least in felony court he would be putting people in jail who were accused of serious crimes. So you leave him in civil court where he can throw a couple of innocent grandparents in jail? Thanks a lot! Maybe this all boils down to the absurdity of judges being elected in the first place. In this case I guess we will never know.

  7. Truth says:

    With all the lives he ruined why isn’t he in jail?

  8. beachcomberT says:

    I don’t know know anything about Judge DuPont or his track record but I wonder if this penalty permanently bans him from running again for the judgeship, and how soon the term expires. Does lame-duck Gov. Scott get to fill the vacancy? Did anyone mount a recall campaign against Scott. If so, what were the results? Is Anthony an ally of Scott, or is some other politically connected lawyer in line for the spot? After reading Jailbird’s post, I get the sense DuPont deserved removal. However, I remain uneasy when a state-level judicial panel overrules the will of local voters.

  9. Anonymous says:

    To Stretchem & Marty Barrett: Congratulations, spoken like true Atheists. I’m sorry for the way you feel.

  10. Dave says:

    So all his past cases should be reviewed then yea? Shame on Flagler county for letting this animal run rampant in our court house , hurting our citizens. Could you imagine if this man was allowed to judge over felony cases? Can you imagine the damage he would have caused to all those serious cases.

  11. RP says:

    And yet we the citizens will not doing anything about it besides lame rants on here. If the people banded together and stood up and demanded he be incarcerated, or heck at least held liable by paying restitution to his victims, thats right victims pf a corrupt and perversive judicial system. But yet modern america is so weak we do nothing, but sit behind our screens and rant about injustice. Tea party anyone ? what would our forefathers think of our inactions. Everyone can be so complacent tucked away in their homes with the it wasn’t me attitude, what about concern for your fellow human and all those who suffered Mr.Hydes wrath ? All protected under the veil of justice and immunity. So was Hitler and his self righteous indignation. They should make a judicial crime tribune as they do with war crimes. He should be held accountable for his actions. !!

  12. Dave says:

    Let’s make sure we keep religion out of our systems. The last thing we need is faith based judgements in our courts, schools, Or work place. Keep God In your heart,not in our system.

  13. Flatsflyer says:

    Understand that he is on Donald Tramp’s short list for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court?

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