Scott DuPont appeals ruling that he is not qualified for judicial race

A Circuit Court ordered him off the ballot based on a 2019 suspension by the state Supreme Court.

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  • | 12:00 a.m. June 5, 2024
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Scott DuPont
Scott DuPont
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Former 7th Circuit Judge Scott DuPont is appealing a decision that blocked him from running this year for a judicial seat because of a past suspension from practicing law.

An attorney for DuPont filed a notice of appeal after Leon County Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh ruled that DuPont was ineligible to run for judge in the 7th Circuit, comprising St. Johns, Putnam, Flagler and Volusia counties.

The notice of appeal, posted June 3 on the Leon County Clerk of Court’s website, does not detail arguments that DuPont’s attorney, former state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, will make at the 1st District Court of Appeal.

DuPont and Circuit Judge Rose Marie Preddy qualified in April to run for the seat, but Preddy filed a lawsuit challenging DuPont’s candidacy.

The challenge was based on a decision by the state Supreme Court to suspend DuPoint from practicing law in October 2019. He was reinstated in June 2020.

DuPont was suspended from practicing law after the Supreme Court removed him as a circuit judge in 2018 because of improper conduct. The removal came after an investigation that, in part, focused on allegations that he spread false information about his 2016 election opponent.

Preddy’s attorneys said the suspension made DuPont ineligible to run this year because of a constitutional requirement that says a lawyer is not eligible for the office of circuit judge “unless the person is, and has been for the preceding five years, a member of the Bar of Florida.”

The new judicial term will start in January, less than five years after DuPont was reinstated.

At a hearing last week, Sabatini contended that DuPont was eligible to run because he remained a member of The Florida Bar throughout his suspension. Sabatini used a sports analogy to illustrate the argument.

“When people think of suspended, they don’t think of, permanently expelled from the team. … They would have said … you can’t play a couple of games, just like a lawyer can’t play a couple games, metaphorically,” Sabatini said. “If you become a member of the Bar, you have not been expelled. You’re still a member of the Bar even if you can’t practice law at that particular time.”

However, Marsh ruled that DuPont would be constitutionally ineligible to serve as a judge in January. He ordered state and local elections officials to not certify DuPont as a candidate or count ballots with his name on them.

“The court is mindful of the momentous event of taking someone off of a ballot. The court takes no pleasure in that, but ultimately, in order for democracies to function appropriately, they must go by the rules of law and the constraints the constitution places over them,” Marsh said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Preddy to the bench in 2023.



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