The final hearing in the case of alleged judicial misconduct regarding Circuit Judge Scott DuPont ended after two days in Jacksonville Tuesday.
The fate of DuPont, who sits in Flagler and Putnam counties, now rests with the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, which will decide whether to file charges or sanctions against DuPont and what level of guilt or punishment to recommend to the Florida Supreme Court. That order is due in 30 to 60 days. Should the qualifications commission recommend sanctions or charges, it’ll be up to the Supreme Court a few months later to decide whether or how to discipline DuPont, who will also get to make his case before the justices.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission is the investigative arm of the state’s judicial system. It is prosecuting the case against DuPont, who is represented by attorney Liles Gavin of Jacksonville. The two-day hearing featured a long list of witnesses for both sides, some of the witnesses called by both, including seven judges called by the qualifications commission and 12 called on DuPont’s behalf, almost all as character witnesses. Each side also called on its share of lawyers as witnesses, creating the unusual dynamic where the individuals who usually appear before judges or who sit as judges were instead in the witness box.
The hearing took place in Courtroom 603 at the Duval County Courthouse, with the six-member panel hearing the case, and chaired by Eugene Pettis, an attorney. The panel is made up of two judges (Steven DeLuca, a county judge in Broward, and Robert Morris, a judge on the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland), two attorneys (Pettis and Michele cummings) and two lay members (Harry Duncanson and Nancy Mahon).
The qualifications commission launched the case against DuPont a year ago with five findings that he may have acted recklessly and unethically during his 2016 re-election campaign, when he faced Malcolm Anthony. The commission alleged that DuPont had spread false, unsubstantiated and scandalous information about his opponent and failed to himself verify the information before it was posted electronically. The commission also alleged that he made statements inappropriate for a judge about the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of statutes.
The allegations were n not necessarily a surprise to people familiar with DuPont’s style and philosophy. He was an aggressive lawyer and is an aggressive judge, doctrinaire down to the strict way he manages his docket and the duration of hearings before him. But he also has a loyal following, and drew on that following to support him in his final hearing. Those he called on included Tom Bexley, the Flagler County Clerk of Court, and Tim Smith, the clerk of court in Putnam, Judge Dennis Craig (though Craig was identified as a mere attorney in the formal filing to the qualifications commission). DuPont also called on Jeffrey Hardy, a former Putnam County sheriff, among several law enforcement officers, Terence Perkins, the former chief judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit (which includes Putnam, Flagler, Volusia and St. Johns), and Hugh Grimes, president of Bethune-Cookman University.
The accusations against DuPont were serious but not catastrophic in that they did not reach into the courtroom, and could have been ascribed to the missteps of a candidate playing a political role in a race for an office that is decidedly non-political, even though judicial candidates are formally trained in how to ethically conduct their campaign. DuPont had initially sought to downplay the allegations against him pertaining to the election season, but eventually owned up to them. “I have had time to reflect on my actions, and think about my behavior, and in doing so I fully understand I was wrong. I should have conducted my own independent research and analysis of what was on my web site to guarantee that it was accurate in all respects. In this regard I fell short,” he wrote in response to the charges against him.
But in mid-August, the qualifications commission filed an amended set of charges. Those were significantly more serious. Several addressed DuPont’s courtroom conduct directly. And one of the charges including a reference to two judges having cautioned him against publishing some of the allegedly scandalous material referred to in the original set of charges. The judges were not named in the complaint, but were later revealed to be Judge Matthew Foxman, who sat as Flagler County’s felony judge for a year, and Judge Howard McGillin, who sits on family court in St. Augustine.
DuPont in one of his pre-hearing motions tried to have the testimonies of Foxman and McGillin quashed. He failed. He succeeded in removing one charge—a vague charge that he had in his 2010 campaign “engaged in a personal attack against your opponent and published misleading campaign material.” His opponent at the time was Don Holmes.
DuPont also sought to have two additional charges addressing his conduct as a judge dismissed: in one case the charge alleges that in a domestic violence case, he’d ordered one of the parties—the party not responsible for the violence—to undergo a psychological evaluation and even though the party was indigent, found her in contempt and humiliated her in court, ordering her jailed. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed his decision. In a family law case, when a party declared indigence, DuPont ordered a bailiff to search the party for any money or anything of value, then and there, and to seize it. DuPont claimed the cases were immaterial, not relevant and too far removed from “to bear upon the current charges” and his fitness to serve. But the qualifications commission disagreed. The charges are still part of the case to be decided.
The attorney prosecuting the case for the commission is Henry Coxe III of Jacksonville, with Michael Schneider of the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Meanwhile, DuPont continues to preside in family court in Putnam and Flagler.
Well, looking at Dupont’s list of witnesses I would say there is belief that he should be charged and removed from the bench. No one on that lists strikes me as being anything more than, well we won’t go there. Dupont did wrong, and should not receive leniency since he is a Judge! He should be held to higher standards. I am surprised that Gail Wadworth did make the list…..birds of a feather flock together. She was the Clerk of Court who was audited by the Auditor General several years back and then a follow up audit was never conducted after 10 findings were revealed. I am also surprised to not see Jason Lewis from the State Attorney Office on his list since they hold hands and dine together. Like I said, birds of a feather flock together. There is no excuse for his lack of professionalism and those that defended him should be ashamed. His character is reflected in his actions, there is no need for a witness, he is his own witness.
a tiny manatee says
He should be held to higher standards, but then so should prosecutors and police. Which doesn’t happen within the legal system. So don’t get your hopes up, like protects like.
Marty Barrett says
He has been an avatar of ignorance and arrogance since day one on the bench and should be removed.
Mr. Clean came clean.
We can not have confidence in our legal system with people like this on the bench–he must go. There are no exceptions or excuses for Judge’s.
On December 1st 2017 my wife and I were scheduled for a 4pm hearing presided over by hopefully soon to be ex Judge Scott DuPont. It was a minor case where we were required to produce documentation regarding our assets the entire case involved a judgement of less than $5,000. When we arrived at the courthouse at 3:55 we were told that there were no more cases that day. We rechecked our paperwork to verify the time and date. We proceeded to go to the 3rd floor in an attempt to locate Judge Dupont’s courtroom. We were told to go to room 302. The door was locked. Finally at about 3:05 we found the correct room(301). We hurried into the courtroom. As I attempted to explain what had happened, the judge ordered my wife and I handcuffed and charged us with contempt of court. My wife, who has never even had a parking ticket in her life was so shocked and distraught that she fainted and needed to be evaluated by emt’s. I must also commend the deputies in the courtroom. They seemed as shocked as everyone else as to what was happening and they treated my wife with the utmost courtesy and respect. We attempted to explain that we had all of the documentation that was requested but he ordered us taken to jail anyway. Upon first appearance the following morning, the presiding judge was visibly upset when she heard the details and had us released immediately. It was clearly one of the scariest and most humiliating events in our lives. When you google our names the first thing that comes up is still our mug shots. Judge DuPont clearly does not posses the temperament or the patience to be a fair and impartial judge. When we saw all of the other similar cases in this publication it just reinforced our opinion. My question now is why is he hearing cases in the middle of this investigation. Any one who is unlucky enough to face him in court should demand another judge. You can have your lawyer file a motion for the judge to recuse himself from your case. If you don’t have a lawyer you can do it yourself. The clerk of courts will help with the paperwork. If enough people do this maybe the judicial review board will get the hint and get him off the bench. He should be removed immediately until a decision is made in regard to his future. Nothing short of removing him from the bench permanently would be an adequate punishment
I am so sorry to hear of your experience. I can’t imagine going through what you and your wife had to endure. This is evidence of an arrogant Judge. It is evident this man has a thinking problem or he wouldn’t be faced with the challenges he faces. I agree, he needs to be removed from the bench and there are no second chances for judges when they made the flaws he has. He has impaired judgement and I can’t believe Judge Craig went and testified on his behalf. That tells me Judge Craig accepts and condones the behaviors of Dupont. I also agree with you that he should have been suspended while this investigation was completed. Florida is known as one of the most corrupt states in the nation and there is a reason why.
Stuff like this only happens in Flagler County (In the 7th Judicial Circuit). It is no surprise with all the movement around with Judges and Stens whining of how over worked she is when the same cases drag on for months and years. Do your jobs, get the cases closed and move on and you won’t need to run in circles. Some of these judges are just too big for their pants. They too will have judgment day one day.
Christopher Wickersham, Jr. says
Jailbirds, who posted at 3:23 on December 15th: What you went through is egregious and should never have happened to you.
My clients and co-counsel in the Golf Group of Palm Coast v. City of Palm Coast lawsuits that were covered previously on this site, were the complainants that led to the additional JQC charges against DuPont. He did the same thing to us. There was an accident on I-95 and we were running a few minutes late, so we called and emailed in advance letting him know. He responded back that he would wait. Instead he proceeded anyway in our absence, held the hearing ex parte, and ruled substantively against us. We had to expend significant time and hassle disqualifying him and having the successor judge vacate his improper orders.
I am appalled at what happened to you, because he’s in the middle of a JQC disciplinary proceeding for this exact type of behavior and he’s obviously still doing it to other people. Clearly there has been no lesson learned.
Give me a call at (904) 389-6202, or email me at [email protected], I will gladly assist you at no charge with the paperwork and reaching out to the JQC’s counsel to get some redress for what happened to you, so that hopefully it will not happen to anyone else.
Roger Niehaus says
OMG Stories just keep coming about this Insane ASS he just won’t quit. Hope they not only remove him from the Bench take his license to practice but put him in Prison as thats where he belongs with all the peoples lives this ASS has ruined. He can’t be human. He continues his same old same old nobody going to touch me attitude and belligerent refusal to follow any law state or federal or its procedures as proven in my case he is an out of control ignorant excuse of a ,sorry no word describes what a low life he is hope he gets his sooner not later. One Sick Piece of work. God will handle him I have no doubt there. Hope our State does the same.
Latasha Hughes says
He’s not a fair judge he took my child away from me with bias
I have a couple of cases in front of Judge DuPont. In one case he held an attorney fee sanction hearing where the expert on behalf of the other side was a lawyer that helped him adopt. I objected but was, “overruled” and the hearing went forward much to my detriment.
Kathy miller says
Boy do the nay sayers ever jump in when a righteous judge stands up for what is right! I campaigned for him and would deeply regret his losing his position! If more judges had the guts to stand up for what’s right the judicial system would not be what a shambles it is in today! Judge DuPont is n upstanding law abiding judge that should be left alone. Having worked in the legal field for 39+ years, I saw attorneys, or what they called themselves, steal millions from estates, sell victims of accidents sell their clients short in settlement negotiations all the fatten their own wallet/purses! The Florida bar did nothing to thee attorneys even though they had the proof before them! They, the attorneys, were unlucky if they got disbarred for a minimal amount of time!! I say judge DuPont is a righteous! Upstanding gentleman, in fact, I would be willing to come out of retirement and work for him with no fee. This man is being railroaded for standing up for his beliefs and covinctions.
Victim of Injustice says
I tried to have him recuse himself but he would not. Now maybe those treated unjustly should file a class action lawsuit to have cases reopened. There must be an attorney who would help us finally get justice.
Victim of Injustice says
Kathy Miller….Standing up for what is right does not excuse disrespecting and abusing those in court. His actions have caused life altering harm to innocent people. There should be a consequence for that. His religious beliefs should not be entwined with justice in court.