A disciplinary panel has recommended that a Northeast Florida circuit judge be removed from office because of improper conduct during a 2016 election campaign and other actions while on the bench. A hearing panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission filed a 43-page report Thursday in the Florida Supreme Court that detailed allegations against Scott DuPont, a judge in the 7th Judicial Circuit who hears cases in Putnam and Flagler counties. The Supreme Court has ultimate authority to discipline judges.
The report focused heavily on material that DuPont published online during a 2016 election campaign against challenger Malcolm Anthony, including false allegations about Anthony’s family members. “Judge DuPont violated judicial canons … by publishing false and misleading statements about his opponent, and imputing criminality to his opponent’s wife and daughter on his campaign website,” the panel report 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.” In a December 2016 response to the allegations, DuPont wrote that he had believed the information about his opponent was accurate.
“I have had time to reflect on my actions, and think about my behavior, and in doing so I fully understand I was wrong,” DuPont’s response said. “I should have conducted my own independent research and analysis of what was on my website to guarantee that it was accurate in all respects.
In this regard I fell short.” The report filed by the disciplinary panel also took issue with actions on the bench, including DuPont changing the times of first-appearance hearings in criminal cases during Memorial Day weekend in 2016 to accommodate his campaign schedule. The report said DuPont moved up hearings to 6:45 a.m. on Saturday, May 28, 2016, and conducted them without attorney present.