TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida circuit judge is under investigation over allegations that he made demeaning comments about women and once said that black people "should go back to Africa."
The allegations were detailed in a filing made late Tuesday to the state Supreme Court by the state panel charged with probing judicial conduct. The Judicial Qualifications Commission told the court that probable cause exists to investigate Circuit Judge Mark Hulsey from Jacksonville for violating misconduct rules.
Hulsey, who was first elected to the bench back in 2010 and is running for a new term, denied the allegations in a statement distributed by his re-election campaign that suggested they were "dirty political tactics."
"These false allegations have been a poorly kept secret hanging over me like a cloud for months," stated Hulsey, adding that he will now have an opportunity to respond to them in a public forum."
The charges against Hulsey, however, were enough to prompt Chief Judge Mark Mahon to reassign him. Mahon oversees the circuit that includes the northeast Florida counties of Clay, Duval and Nassau.
"These allegations are very serious, and if true, very troubling," Mahon said in a statement. "Judge Hulsey is, of course, entitled to due process and a hearing on these charges. In the meantime, I have reassigned Judge Hulsey to assist in the Probate Division. This is done not to pass judgment on the truth of these charges but to continue the orderly administration of justice. For me to comment any further would not be appropriate."
Florida's code for judges says that judges cannot do anything that would undermine the integrity of the office, demean the office or cast doubt on the ability of a judge to act impartially.
The investigative panel filed a report this week that states that during a conversation with a staff attorney, Hulsey said black people should "go get back on a ship and go back to Africa." During the initial phase of the investigation, Hulsey allegedly ordered his judicial assistant to tell investigators he would never say anything derogatory about blacks or women.
Hulsey also is accused of referring to a staff attorney as a "bitch," and another derogatory term for a woman, and of ordering his judicial assistant to perform personal tasks for him.