SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A Seminole County judge was recommended for suspension after cursing at a defendant and filing consecutive wrongful contempt orders in two separate cases earlier this year, an inquiry filed Wednesday shows.
Court records indicate Seminole County Judge Wayne Culver faces a suspension of 60 days without pay pending a decision by the Florida Supreme Court, which would include a public reprimand and requirement to complete anger and stress management courses by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission as a result of an Investigative Panel of the Commission looking into the January and February incidents in court.
The disciplinary recommendation comes months after Culver swore at a defendant whom he believed was interrupting his proceedings on Feb. 10, 2022.
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A video shows the defendant walking into the gallery to prepare for his hearing later that day before Culver says, “Sir, I’m doing something. Can you shut up and sit down?” and interrupts the man when he explains he is trying to find a seat.
“That’s not shutting up. You want to be held in contempt and go to jail?” Culver continued before subsequently shouting, “I asked you a f------ question, a------.”
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The judge later apologized “for using profanity,” explaining that was the first time he had lost his temper in the courtroom.
A month prior on Jan. 25, court documents show Culver gave improper jail sentences and made comments “lacking the dignity and courtesy expected and required of judges” toward a man representing himself in a dating violence hearing.
The commission said Culver told the litigant to listen to him because his words were the most important “you’ll ever hear as long as you live as (an) organism on this planet.”
“Every time you interrupt her, or any time you interrupt me-- and you’re not even letting me finish my sentence...every time you do it, I’m going to hold you in contempt and I’m gonna give you 179 days in jail,” Culver said. “And every time you do it, I’m gonna add a consecutive six-month sentence-- you keep on interrupting us, you’re going to have to have the jail renamed after you.”
Culver then proceeded to wrongly file three consecutive contempt sentences, which would result in a total of 537 days in jail for the litigant.
According to the commission, Culver later recognized the imposing consecutive sentences were “legally improper” and initially decided to sentence the man to only 179 days in jail before vacating the order completely in May.
The commission found Culver’s actions “represent a concerning pattern of failing to uphold the high standards of conduct expected of judges.”
Despite the findings, court documents also added, “Judge Culver has cooperated fully, accepted full responsibility, and acknowledged that such conduct should have never occurred. Judge Culver regrets that his actions have cast a negative light on the judiciary and the judicial system.”
[READ THE FULL DISCIPLINE FINDINGS BELOW]
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