Last Updated: 11:52 a.m.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission is recommending the removal of Circuit Court Judge Scott DuPont from the Seventh Judicial Circuit bench in an extraordinary finding issued late Thursday evening. The findings detail an impetuous, abrasive and overly aggressive temperament that drew so many complaints and raised such concerns that a chief judge refused to assign DuPont to felony court for fear that he’d imprison too many people for unduly long sentences.
It will be up to the Florida Supreme Court to act on the recommendations, assuming DuPont does not resign first.
DuPont last made an appearance in Flagler court on Feb. 9. He is not on any Flagler court docket through next week, though that’s not in itself unusual given his split schedule between two counties. “He’s still on the bench, still able to serve until the Florida supreme court acts,” the spokesperson for the 7th Judicial Circuit’s court administration said this morning. But the spokesperson later clarified: “The recommendation and report of the JQC is being reviewed and it is still to be determined whether any actions will be taken pending a decision by the Florida Supreme Court.”
The reviewing is being conducted by Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Raul Zambrano, who will decide whether any action is to be taken in the interim.
Finding DuPont guilty on four charges based on a series of infractions in and out of the courtroom, against parties appearing before him on various cases and with regard to his conduct as a candidate for election and re-election, the commission found him to have a “reckless disregard for the truth,” found him “careless,” “heavy handed,” and ultimately less than apologetic. He was found not guilty on two of the charges.
“After much deliberation, and for the following reasons, this Panel concludes that removal is the only discipline appropriate under the circumstances,” the 43-page finding concludes. “Judge DuPont has been found guilty of a series of charges, which are united by a single, fatal flaw; Judge DuPont’s unwillingness to listen or heed any voice but his own.”
DuPont has been serving on the bench since his election in 2010 and his re-election in 2016, dividing his time on the civil bench between Flagler and Putnam counties. He first served in St. Johns. (The Seventh Judicial Circuit includes Flagler, St. Johns, Volusia and Putnam.) He’s served in every division but felony court. The exception was not a coincidence, but was directly related to concerns about DuPont’s temperament. The charges against him first came to light at the end of 2016, and were further buttressed in August 2017 with additional charges.
DuPont himself had told the qualification commission that his offenses merited at most “a reprimand.” But the commission sharply rebuked him even on that count, quoting DuPont’s abrasive response against him as it carried a hint of vengefulness diametrically opposed to the sort of judicial temperament required of judges: “[I] can assure you this,” DuPont had told the panel. “One of the things that this panel has taught me is who my friends are and who my friends aren’t. It has been the most eye-opening experience for me personally, and again, I’m glad it happened. And it’s definitely going to have an effect on how I interact with colleagues here on out, I can tell you that.”
The charges against DuPont alleged that he had recklessly posted false or misleading information about an opponent and his family during the 2016 campaign, that he’d falsely claimed his opponent had been ticketed for passing a school bus and had cheated during a straw poll, that he’d made unspecified personal attacks against a previous opponent in 2010, that he’d presided over a hearing between the City of Palm Coast and the owners of the Matanzas golf course even though the golf course representatives had been detained by a traffic crash, that he’d held first-appearance hearings scheduled around his campaign calendar and held some of those hearings without the presence of attorneys, and that he’d humiliated at least two individuals in court by various means, in one case ordering a deputy sheriff to search and seize a man’s valuables when the man said he had no means to pay child support.
The man was ordered against the wall with his arms and legs spread as if to be patted down for weapons as a bailiff searched him. The bailiff removed the man’s wallet from his pocket, opened it and pulled out $180, which DuPont ordered turned over to the man’s wife. A case manager for family court alerted her supervisor, and later testified to the qualifications commission that she’d never seen behavior of the sort by a judge in court. Law enforcement officers were “visibly angry” by the search, according to the commission’s findings, and reported the incident to Judge Terrell J. LaRue, administrative judge for the circuit, who attributed the infraction to a rookie mistake.
LaRue explained to DuPont that it was a “very poor procedure,” only to be taken aback, according to the commission’s findings, when DuPont retorted: “I can do that,” and “we do that all the time in St. Johns County.” The qualifications commission found DuPont guilty on that infraction.
When the initial charges were filed in November 2016 DuPont, after some prevarication, took responsibility, wrote that he was “remorseful” and said the behavior “will never happen again.” Then additional charges, particularly those pertaining to his behavior in court, came to light.
In 2012, DuPont granted a petition for an injunction to a woman whose husband had so brutalized her as to result in a hospitalization for a concussion. But DuPont also ordered the woman to be psychologically evaluated. The reason: because she had repeatedly returned to her abuser. He threatened her with jail if she did not comply. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed that order, ruling that such measures “impose a substantial financial and emotional burden on the victim and would have a chilling effect on victims of domestic violence seeking the protection of the courts.” DuPont testified he had imposed the conditions out of fear for the safety of the woman and her children (whom he’d also ordered psychologically evaluated). On that count, the qualifications commission found him not guilty.
DuPont had called on numerous friends, colleagues and others to vouch for him in his case before the qualifications commission, including Tom Bexley, the Flagler County Clerk of Court, Tim Smith, the clerk of court in Putnam, Judge Dennis Craig, who presides over Flagler County’s felony court, Jeffrey Hardy, a former Putnam County sheriff, several other law enforcement officers, Terence Perkins, the former chief judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, and Hugh Grimes, president of Bethune-Cookman University. James Alexander, a veteran St. Johns attorney, testified that while DuPont’s early tenure was “shaky,” he’d grown from a “D-” judge into an “A+” judge over time. Grimes called DuPont “a good man” with an “excellent reputation” for truth and veracity.
Notably absent from that list was Circuit Judge Matthew Foxman–who also presided over Flagler’s felony court for a year. Foxman was elected to the bench the same year DuPont was. The two became friends during that campaign. But in the case before the qualifications commission, DuPont claimed Foxman had recommended to DuPont that DuPont go forward with damaging information about an opponent, a claim Foxman termed “not true” in testimony. Rather, Foxman said he’d warned him against publishing questionable information.
DuPont was found guilty of publishing information about an opponent despite advice from trusted colleagues. It was not only the information the commission questioned, but the manner with which DuPont published it, using damaging innuendo and phraseology relating to his opponent such as “imposter information” and tag lines more customarily associated with used-car salesmanship than judicial races, such as: “Do You Trust Malcolm Anthony To Be Your Circuit Court Judge?”
The qualifications commission “finds that Judge DuPont felt threatened by a candidate with substantially more legal experience; he requested France”–Maureen France, his campaign manager–“to conduct ‘opposition research’ on Anthony, because he was familiar with this type of research from his prior successful campaign for judicial office. The timing and content of emails between them support Ms. France’s account that the judge knew she was not going to be vetting any of the research provided, that it lacked detail, and should not be used.”
The commission’s findings reveal conflicts within the DuPont campaign that his tactics provoked. France, the commission found, “took the unprecedented step of requesting that Judge DuPont execute a ‘hold harmless’ agreement protecting” her and colleagues working on the campaign. DuPont refused to sign. France said DuPont told her that “if we were to get into any trouble, any attorney in the circuit would represent us for free.”
DuPont ignored France’s warnings. The commission, citing extensively from the transcript of a televised 2016 candidate forum where DuPont unleashed a long string of unsubstantiated accusations, found him guilty of using information about his opponent with “reckless disregard” for the truth. (DuPont’s abrasive, confrontational style had been reported at length during his 2010 race following a forum in Flagler.)
In the case involving Palm Coast and the golf group–which had filed a motion to disqualify DuPont, and which DuPont denied–the commission found DuPont not guilty, DuPont having eventually disqualified himself from the case (after the qualifying commission’s investigative panel found probable cause for misconduct) and the case itself was resolved in mediation.
The qualifications commission in its recommendations was willing to give DuPont the benefit of the doubt regarding his missteps early in his tenure. But it’s the persistence and accumulation of concerns that lent weight to its further findings, particularly when it heard the testimony of Perkins, the chief judge in the circuit for the majority of DuPont’s tenure–from 2013 through June 2017. The number of complaints Perkins received about DuPont, Perkins testified, was “not even close” to those received about other judges. Most, he said, related to “heavy handedness.”
The problem was such that Perkins for four years refused to assign DuPont to felony court, “fearing such heavy-handedness might lead to excessive or inappropriate incarcerations,” the findings state. Perkins “transferred DuPont to the civil division to ‘take him out of the firing line’ and place him in a position where ‘he wasn’t putting people in jail all the time.'”
Perkins “initially attempted to address problems directly with Judge DuPont,” the findings continue. “This proved ineffective. ‘Scott would say the right things; it just didn’t seem to change the behavior.’ He then reached out for assistance from other judges.”
In the end, the commission found DuPont to have violated several judicial canons, resulting in the recommendation for removal.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission’s Full Findings on Judge Scott DuPont (2018)
My case (Property) was before him and he was more than fair and listened closely to all those before him. He was very personable. I researched a little about this whole election situation and I feel it is a case of a sore loser from his opponent. I can tell you no less than five judges that are so crooked that not only would they be disbarred, they should be in jail! I’m sure there is more to this story, but what I have read and experienced, personally, they should use the resources and energy on a few others. Especially in the criminal courts, that is so biased that if the facts we ever leaked it would get national attention. I’m referring to Volusia, Flagler and St. Johns courts
A true menace to the judiciary, and to a slightly lesser extent, humanity. His ignorance and incompetence is exceeded only by his arrogance. This took far too long to come to light but at least it finally has. Shame on those voters who elected him in the first place, he barely had any experience as an attorney before he was elected and by many accounts, most of that experience raised similar concerns as were raised here. As an assistant State Attorney he was unethical and incompetent. Shame too on all those judges and lawyers who crawled out of the woodwork to support him during these proceedings. These people had to know, any sentient being would, of the problems his judgeship entailed and they not only did nothing, they supported him. They are complicit and should be held to account as well. All voters should consider this when these judges are up for re-election. Look at jqc.com to find a list of those who supported him and ask yourselves what that support says about the judgment and character of these people and whether that is what we want in one who is bestowed with a great deal of power over people’s lives. Good riddance Dupont, time to go work for a living….
“the commission found him to have a “reckless disregard for the truth,” found him “careless,” “heavy handed,” and ultimately less than apologetic..”
So, Presidential material through and through, you’re saying?
I’m sure he’s a Republican. Always angry, aggressive, unqualified and unprepared, and unrepentant. Get him the hell off the bench.
Clean up the system! ! Nice to see the higher courts putting these scum bags in check
Sounds like a good judge
Ben Hogarth says
How do you define foolish?
Telling a panel of dually qualified public servants charged with evaluating your conduct what punishment you deserve for abrasive and impetuous behavior while on the bench.
“A reckless disregard for truth” – if that’s not cause for disbarment, I don’t know what ethical measurement is.
It’s evident, I believe that his words and actions are indicative of sociopathic behavior and he should perhaps seek out treatment or at the very least – be required to undergo a psychological evaluation. If not for his benefit then for society at large.
No narcissistic menace should be allowed to serve in a court of law.
Shot Across My Bow?!? says
DuPont’s attempt to look like “Mr. Clean” obviously didn’t work. Its hard to imagine the number of lives that DuPont has wrecked because of his arrogance and vindictiveness.
I’m sorry but I agree with the judge about the case of the woman who was beaten by her husband, severely and repeatedly. He issued an injunction against the husband and ordered a psychological evaluation of the woman because she kept returning to him. it sounds to me like she could use some treatment and/or counseling and, if she had children, her returning repeatedly to him could endanger them as well. Also, the fact of the matter is that more law enforcement officers die as result if domestic violence calls than just bout anything else. These cycles of violence take a toll on more people than just the husband and wife. Just make sure that the evaluation cannot be used by the acuser’s lawyer to get him/her off. THAT is the major danger in a ruling like this.
Shot Across My Bow?!? says
Judge DuPont could have recommended she get counseling. But for him to issue a court order and then jail a victim of domestic abuse because she failed to get counseling, presumably because she was indigent, is abhorrent. The JQC made the right determination in that case. If we jail some of our domestic abuse victims when they don’t do exactly what they’re told, then fewer victims are going to come forward. But, like the JQC, I believe the children should undergo psychological evaluations and counseling.
Missy B. says
Many people do the right thing. This Judge thinks he is “above” the law and does whatever he wants. It is about time we put a stop to this injustice. So many people need help and “he” is not one to step up or go above and beyond. It’s about time they remove the dirt marking up all the floors.
Too heavy handed for hardened criminals? Put him in FAMILY COURT, Where he can CREATE CRIMINALS! Great plan, guys! Yet, another example of terrible leadership.
john Dolan says
In his book, How to argue and win everytime, Jerry Spence, the famous Cowboy Lawyer, talks about many lawyers he had known that turn into real asses when they become a Judge. Maybe it’s the power corrupts syndrome.
Marty, He was an assistant state attorney—this is what is produced in that office. We have a State Attorney who can never been seen working or in public unless there is a camera on him—then he will cheese it up for the camera and say all the things he knows we want to hear. Isn’t it interesting that Dupont’s behaviors and poor judgement went on for so long and nothing was done about it. Yea, that’s why Florida is known to be one of the most corrupt states in the nation. Innocent people probably go to jail because they don’t have money for attorney’s and guilty people get out of jail when they know the right people. It is a big social club—all you have to do is connect the dots. It is alarming that judge Dennis Craig supported this man knowing of his wrong doings…….I’ll have to remember that next time I see Dennis Craig’s name on the ballot.
Roger Niehaus says
Too bad they are keeping him from the courthouse im sure he probably would have made a good Janitor but anyway Justice is coming full circle for him now for all the wrongdoing against good God fearing people he has tried to destroy. Now that just leaves me one more Attourney that follows the same Ungodly actions to get removed from the Florida Bar yes you are next and know who you are so keep on the way you are almost ready to make it happen. Thank God and God bless to all who were involved in his removal . Thank you sincerely Roger Niehaus and Family
Barbaralee Breen says
His repeated denial of an injunction against someone for stalking and harassment has endangered the residents who filed the injunction (members of the LGTB community). He needs to be removed as he is a menace to the judicial community and needs to return to law school to look up on how to be a proper judge. He also needs to look up the stalking law in Florida.