Suspension proposed for Seminole County judge for acting 'inappropriately' on the bench

Stream FOX 35 News 

In a long-running case, a state panel on Monday recommended a public reprimand and a 60-day suspension for a Seminole County judge because of incidents in 2022. 

An investigative panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission in 2022 recommended a similar discipline for Seminole County Judge Wayne Culver. However, the Florida Supreme Court rejected a proposed settlement and ordered the Judicial Qualifications Commission to hold a full hearing on the allegations. 

The commission case stemmed from allegations that Culver acted inappropriately on the bench. For example, a document filed Monday by the commission at the Supreme Court said Culver yelled at a man who had entered his courtroom on Feb. 10, 2022. Culver said, "Sir, I’m doing something here. Could you shut up and sit down?" When the man, a defendant who was waiting to appear before Culver, said he was trying to find a seat, Culver responded with profanity and threatened to hold him in contempt of court. 

"Judge Culver admitted shocking himself by his use of profanity and that members of the public would rightly be appalled," the commission document said. "He knew it immediately when he left the bench, telling his judicial assistant, ‘I really messed up in there.’" 

The document, however, pointed to mitigating factors, including that Culver was taking care of his 87-year-old incapacitated father at the time of the incidents. It said a commission hearing panel "is convinced that the judge is genuinely contrite, has learned from this experience, and continues to be effective as a judge. His conduct in January and February 2022 was aberrational, situational, and attributable to stressful personal problems related to caretaking his father during the latter’s impending death." 

The Supreme Court has ultimate authority to discipline judges.