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Black ministers demand judge accused of racist remarks resign

Judge Mark Hulsey must respond to commission's accusations within 20 days

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A group of black ministers announced Thursday that they will not rest until a judge accused of making racist and sexist remarks resigns.

A Judicial Qualifications Commission filed notice Wednesday that there is probable cause to charge Judge Mark Hulsey with inappropriate conduct, citing his conversations and work he required his staff attorneys to do.

In one instance, he made a racial comment to a staff member, suggesting that African-Americans should be sent back to Africa on a boat, the panel found.

The chief judge reassigned Hulsey to probate court, meaning he will not handle criminal cases until his case is resolved.

Pastor Fredrick Newbill and about 20 other ministers gathered at Newbill's Northside church Thursday afternoon, demanding the chief judge do more.

They want Hulsey to step down before the election in August and threatened protests at the courthouse if he does not do so.

“This will not be a one-time deal. We will not go away,” Newbill said. “We are going to continue this process until something happens that is satisfactory to our community. We will not go away. I promise you that.”

Newbill and the other ministers said that because Husley is a judge, he has to go now, before the hearing process is over.

They said he is still in a position to make decisions that affect African-Americans and women.

“This man is a judge. Let him step down. And then if the Judicial Qualifications Commission finds that these charges are not substantiated, then let something happen,” Newbill said. “But in the meantime, I didn't bring it on him, he brought it on himself. He really needs to step down.”

A group of black attorneys said Wednesday that they support Hulsey and don't believe he is racist.

They said they want the investigation to conclude before any more action is taken.

“My point is it is not the time to protest and march and picket and everything, because you don't even know what happened,” attorney Washington Barlow said.

Barlow said Thursday that the ministers are being hypocritical because they have supported others in the past who have been charged in serious investigations, but the ministers say this case is different.

“I'm saying to those black lawyers, 'You need to go somewhere and sit down,' and I'm recommending that the people in our community do not service you anymore, because if you start running interference, it's like the days of slavery, because somebody had to run interference so the attention would be diverted from the main cause,” Newbill said.

Court officials are not saying right now what impact the accusations against Hulsey will have on cases in Jacksonville.

Some attorneys have said that more motions could be filed from those who were convicted by Hulsey in court, trying to have their convictions overturned.

Mark Spottswood, an assistant law professor from Florida State, said he doesn’t see a lot of that happening.

“Probably the easiest way it could have an impact on -- maybe not on prior cases but on people who are incarcerated on prior cases -- they might, if they maintain their prior innocence, raise this as an extra bit of ammunition if they are seeking clemency from the governor or arguing to a probation or parole board,” Spottswood said.

Hulsey is up for re-election and in a statement said he is looking forward to clearing his name in this investigation. He has about 20 days to respond, before a hearing will be held with the commission in Jacksonville and its recommendation will go to the state Supreme Court.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.