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Panel targets judge for campaign conduct

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A Northeast Florida circuit judge could face discipline for conduct during this year's election campaign, including online attacks against an opponent and saying he would not hold state laws unconstitutional, according to a notice of formal charges filed Wednesday by an investigative panel.

The panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission voted Oct. 28 to find that "probable cause" existed to begin proceedings against Circuit Judge Scott DuPont of the 7th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Volusia, Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties.

The filing Wednesday at the Florida Supreme Court said, in part, that DuPont "recklessly" posted information on a campaign website about election opponent Malcolm Anthony and that DuPont had not taken steps to verify the "scandalous information."

Also, the panel recounted comments from a televised forum that included DuPont saying he would not hold state laws unconstitutional.

"During the forum, you announced your position that it is not the role of a circuit court judge to determine whether a given statute is unconstitutional, because that would be 'legislating from the bench,' " the notice of formal charges said. "You further stated that you have refused to find statutes unconstitutional and that '(if) they don't like the decision, they can appeal it.' In doing so you announced your position that you would not find any statute to be unconstitutional. Previously upon assuming your judicial office, you had sworn under oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Florida Constitution."

DuPont, who defeated Anthony in an Aug. 30 election, will have 20 days to answer the charges.

The Supreme Court has the ultimate authority to decide whether to discipline judges.