A Seminole County judge could face a 60-day suspension without pay and a public reprimand after an investigation into two incidents in his courtroom.
An investigative panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission on Wednesday recommended that the state Supreme Court impose the suspension and reprimand Judge Wayne Culver. The panel, in part, cited Culver’s conduct during a Jan. 25 hearing in a case about an injunction against repeat or dating violence. Culver became angry about interruptions and “made comments to a litigant that lacked the dignity and courtesy expected and required of judges,” a document filed at the Supreme Court said.
In the other incident, which occurred on Feb. 10, Culver “raised his voice and used profanity while addressing an individual who had entered the courtroom and was standing in the gallery,” the document said.
“Sir, I’m doing something. Can you shut up and sit down?” the judge told the individual, who was looking for a seat and had spoken audibly from the gallery.
“Absolutely, I’m trying to find a seat,” the man said.
“That’s not shutting up,” the judge shouted back. “You want to be held in contempt and go to jail? I asked you a fucking question, asshole.”
“Then shut up,” Culver again shouted.
“Judge Culver’s inappropriate behavior on this occasion speaks for itself,” the commission found. “His words and actions are as offensive as they are inappropriate. Whether or not [the man’s] conduct would have warranted the contempt which was threatened, the commission finds that Judge Culver’s conduct was unnecessarily confrontational and escalated the disturbance and disruption instead of
de-escalating and minimizing the disturbance of the court proceeding. The Commission notes that Judge Culver later entered an order of recusal from [the man’s] own criminal case.”
The investigative panel and Culver reached an agreement, known as a stipulation, in which the judge acknowledged that his actions were undignified, impatient and discourteous and that he had violated the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct. The Supreme Court has the ultimate authority to discipline judges.
Culver, originally from Jacksonville (he moved to Seminole in 1977) was elected in 2020. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and got his law degree from Suffolk University in 2000. He was an assistant public defender, an assistant state attorney and a lawyer in private practice in the 20 years before his election to the bench.