Florida judge is accused of making derogatory comments, overrelying on staffers

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A Florida judge is facing ethics allegations that he used the C-word and B-word to refer to a staff attorney and once remarked that blacks “should go get back on a ship and go back to Africa.”

An investigative panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission on Tuesday found probable cause to pursue ethics charges against Judge Mark Hulsey III of Jacksonville, report the Daily Business Review (sub. req.), First Coast News, the Washington Post and the Florida Times-Union.

Hulsey, who has been transferred from criminal to probate cases, says the charges are false.

The notice of charges alleges that Hulsey was “discourteous and condescending” to staff, used inappropriate language, and relied on staff attorneys to supply information on trial procedures. More specifically, the ethics charges allege that Hulsey:

• Demeaned female staff attorneys by saying they are like cheerleaders who talk during the national anthem.

• Required a staff attorney to provide him with basic information about capital trial procedures, made trial mistakes, then unfairly berated and blamed the staff attorney for the mistakes.

• Relied on staff attorneys “to unnecessarily prepare word-for-word ‘scripts’ of even routine and mundane judicial acts.”

• Exploited a judicial assistant who performed personal tasks, such as paying the judge’s personal bills, writing letters, and making personal phone calls on his behalf.

• After attending training on post-conviction motions, gave the instructional notebook to his judicial assistant, and instructed her to read it and figure it out.

Hulsey was elected in 2010 after 20 years of solo practice and is running for re-election. His campaign issued a statement by him. “These false allegations have been a poorly kept secret hanging over me like a cloud for months,” Hulsey said. “I am pleased the JQC has concluded its initial investigation, and that I will now have an opportunity to respond to them in a public forum.”

A group of prominent black lawyers expressed doubt about the charges at a news conference on Wednesday, according to the Florida Times-Union.

A. Wellington Barlow said Hulsey is entitled to a presumption of evidence and he has not had a chance to present his side. “I have appeared before Judge Hulsey on many occasions,” Barlow said. “When I first heard these allegations, I was shocked because he has a reputation for being very fair to every litigant.”

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