Judge Apologizes, Reprimanded for Viewing Porn on the Job

Michael Hayes
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court has issued a public reprimand to a state judge for violating judicial ethics rules by repeatedly viewing pornography on his computer while in chambers.

Responding to Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis who called Judge Brandt Downey III’s behavior “truly shocking,” the Clearwater, Fla. circuit court judge said he was sorry.

Lewis spoke for the seven-judge appellate court, which oversees judicial ethics in the state.

"I am embarrassed to sit in the middle chair this morning," Lewis said. "To have a judge compelled to come before this court because of the type of behavior just stipulated constitutes true tarnish."

According to the stipulation accepted by the Supreme Court, Downey admitted to viewing pornographic websites from his computer in chambers from 2003 through 2005.

"I acknowledge that my actions were inappropriate," Downey said. "I beg everyone's forgiveness."

Downey, a 21-year veteran of the bench, will be forced to retire when his term expires Jan. 1. Further terms of his sanction include counseling. Downey also agreed that he would never seek re-election or reappointment and refrain from doing any post-retirement work as a senior judge.

During his remaining time on the bench, Downey’s computer access will be restricted, according to Lewis, who called the settlement a “deal with the devil.”

Downey said he has sought and received forgives from his friends and family. He also said he believes God has forgiven him.

Downey’s work-time viewing habits came to light after court employees complained that they had been exposed to pornography. Technicians working in the courthouse had told Downey on several occasions that he needed to stop accessing pornographic websites because they presented a security risk to the court’s computer system.

"The unacceptable behavior in which you engaged presents a picture of someone who simply does not understand the rudimentary bounds of judicial decorum or just doesn't care," Lewis told Downey.

In the ethical proceeding, Lewis also criticized Downey’s allegedly inappropriate behavior directed toward two female attorneys who had argued before him.

Downey denied the allegations, which Lewis described as showing inordinate interest in the female attorneys and commenting inappropriately on their appearance, including sending one of the woman a flirtatious email.

Lewis summed up his scolding of Downey asking the disgraced judge, “what were you thinking?”