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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Aug. 10, 201612:00 PM EST

Hulsey's response details denials for racist remarks

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Judge calls for investigation into leaks
by: David Chapman

Three weeks after a state Judicial Qualifications Commission panel issued a notice of formal charges against Circuit Judge Mark Hulsey, the jurist formally replied Tuesday.

He denies allegations he used derogatory and racist language about female attorneys and African-Americans, respectively.

He denies exploiting his former judicial assistant or making her feel compelled to do his personal tasks.

And he denies interfering with the commission’s investigation.

The six-page response filed by Hulsey’s attorney, Michael Tanner, is mostly denials to the July 19 charges that became public when the commission’s investigative panel decided to pursue a case.

Hulsey is calling for an investigation of his own.

In the response, Hulsey points out allegations do not say he failed to properly handle his cases or that litigants before him were prejudiced in any way.

The day the charges became public, Chief Judge Mark Mahon announced he was reassigning Hulsey from the Criminal Division to the Probate Division. The switch, Mahon said in a statement at the time, wasn’t done to pass judgment but instead was to “continue the orderly administration of justice.”

Some of Hulsey’s denials in more detail:

• He denies using explicit, derogatory language in reference to staff attorneys and denies referring to female staff attorneys as “cheerleaders who talk during the national anthem.” He states he treats all people he comes into contact with as a judge “with proper courtesy and respect.”

• Hulsey refutes the allegation he said African-Americans “should go get back on a ship and go back to Africa” and said he “does not subscribe to, and rejects the beliefs” outlined in the allegation.

• He denies berating a staff attorney. Instead, he said he requested an explanation as to why a staff attorney left the courthouse for the day while a capital trial was ongoing and not in recess.

There were some admissions in the response, generally with more detail.

For example, Hulsey said he did not exploit his judicial assistant to perform personal tasks. But he admits she did drive his wife to a medical appointment on two occasions in 2011. The assistant offered, he said, because she had the same physician and it would allow Hulsey to avoid time away from the courthouse.

Hulsey also admits he requested a specific staff attorney because that person “had previously done excellent work.” However, he was not told doing so caused “double duty” for that person and he denies Mahon instructed him to limit his use of staff attorneys.

Instead, Hulsey said the chief judge circulated a memorandum to all judges clarifying procedures for using staff attorneys.

As of Tuesday morning, the Florida Supreme Court website did not list a hearing date for Hulsey’s charges.

Hulsey in his response also is requesting a “Rule 23” investigation dealing with the confidentiality of the commission’s work. He is seeking to determine “the source of the breach of confidentiality” by the commission’s investigation that resulted in rumors and knowledge before the notice of formal charges were filed.

In a July statement, Hulsey said the allegations “have been a poorly kept secret hanging over me like a cloud for months.”

[email protected]

@writerchapman

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