Florida judge could face reprimand after angry outburst directed at man in courtroom

A judge in Seminole County continues to be seated on the bench, as the Florida Supreme Court decides if it will reprimand him for two different outbursts.

When Kevin Newton, 50, walked into a Seminole County courtroom trying to find a seat while the court was in session, he caught the wrath of Judge Wayne Culver. Newton appeared to be talking at the time and the judge stopped the proceedings.

"Sir, I’m doing something. Can you shut up and sit down?" Judge Culver asked Newton. "Absolutely! I’m trying to find a seat," Newton replied. "That’s not shutting up," the judge said back to Newton.  He continued, "You want to be held in contempt and go to jail? I asked you a [expletive] question [expletive]!" Newton responded, "No sir!" to which Judge Culver said, "Then shut up!"

Kevin Newton's sister, Sabrina Newton, was in the room with her that day. When the judge’s outburst occurred, she said her brother didn't want to speak out for fear of retaliation in court. She called the judge's behavior unacceptable.

"There was blue tape on the benches, so we didn’t know where to sit because of COVID. This judge let his personal feelings take over," she said. "I was scared to react in any kind of way because I didn’t want to go to jail!"

In a report, the Florida Judicial Qualification Commission recommended a 60-day suspension without pay, as well as a public reprimand, anger management, and stress counseling. It was the second outburst that Judge Culver has had in court, the commission said. The first happened in January 2021. We asked Orlando-area Attorney Mark O’Mara for his thoughts. 

"They are the personalization of the criminal justice system, so I was very disheartened when I saw that," he explained.

A protective injunction has been placed on the video from the first case, but the report states a suspect was cursing in court. It stated that Judge Culver’s decision to use sarcasm and mockery to communicate was inappropriate and a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. It states Judge Culver failed to provide due process in not signing a judgment of guilt, failing to advise a right to appeal, and unlawfully imposing three consecutive contempt sentences. 

"I think he’s a very good judge; I knew him before he was on the bench. I like him personally. Obviously, he was frustrated, and it was a bad day," O'Mara added. "The problem with judges, like lawyers, you have to be good even on a bad day." 

Judge Culver did apologize to Newton later in the hearing. We reached out to his attorney and are waiting to hear back. The Florida Supreme Court will decide what penalty the judge could face.