Tampa, Florida -- The Judicial rating web site, RobeProbe says he is very bad judge and many people who have appeared in front of him agree. Those who have appeared in front of him say he abuses his power and Hillsborough Family Court Judge Scott Stephens has been over turned by the Florida Supreme Court as well as the Second District Court of appeals.
Jeff Jankowski, says his whole goal was to punish him and his ex wife. Tamela Diaz says when she walked out of the hearing she was shell shocked. Jeremy Haddix says during his hearing the judge was extremely rude and biased.
Jankowski says he terrorized his wife and children to the point where they had to spend more than $500,000 in legal fees.
Although Jankowski and his ex-wife Dawn had battled over child support payments, Jankowski paid the the money which was in arrears. He had a court document showing it was paid and his ex-wife wanted the case dropped, but Stephens didn't accept it.
Dawn Jankowski says when Stephens found out they had drawn up papers to reconcile he basically filed an arrest warrant against Jankowski.
While Jankowski no longer owes child support he had to leave the state and now faces arrest if he comes back to Florida. He says as it stands right now he is subject to 254 years in jail for paying his child support.
Clearly many of the people who appear in family court are unhappy with the outcome in the adversarial proceedings, buy many of the people who complained to us say Stephens's rulings are bizarre and beyond the scope of the law.
Diaz says it is sad that a judge can rule whatever he wants no matter what the law is. Diaz says that is exactly what happened in her divorce case when she appeared before Stephens. Although Diaz and her ex worked out an agreement through a mediator, Stephens rejected the settlement. She says Stephens didn't go by the law at all and instead ruled what he wanted to rule in order to enforce his opinion.
The 2nd district court of appeals said Stephens abused his discretion and he had to reluctantly reverse his decision.
An Attorney who appeared in front of Stephens, but asked us not to reveal her identity because of a concern that the judge could retaliate, says someone like Stephens doesn't need to be in a position to make life altering decisions for families. She says there is a pattern in his hearings that shows he felt no responsibility to know what was going on in the case. She says in one case she had with Stephens he told her that he wasn't going to read the file, because it was too big. In that same case the Attorney says Stephens asked her client to reveal her address even though she was a domestic violence victim and her attacker was in the courtroom. The Attorney says she told the Judge that under State law the woman's address was protected and should not be revealed, but Stephens said either tell him the address or the hearing would end right there.
Jeremy Haddix says he no longer has faith in the court system and no money to pay for it. Haddix says he spent more than $400,000 winning custody of his 4 year old son and blames the Judge. Haddix says Stephens referred the issue to a magistrate, but Stephens then rejected the magistrate's findings and filed a bar complaint against Haddix's attorney for going to the magistrate. He says Stephens wanted him and his attorney to explain why the magistrate had the jurisdiction to have the hearing. It turns out Stephens had ordered the magistrate to hear the case several times.
While Stephens wouldn't comment for this story his former law partner Ed Brennan comes to his defense. When we told Brennan that critics say Stephens thinks he is smarter than everyone else, he told us that is because Stephens is. According to Brennan, Stephens is probably the smartest lawyer his has met in his 20 years of being an attorney in Tampa. Brennan says Stephens is a brilliant, brilliant legal scholar.
But those we talked feel like Tamela Diaz, who says it is the public's tax dollar at work and it is a shame and embarrassment.
So while Stephens may make life miserable for attorneys and their clients, he has done nothing that would lead to his removal from the bench.