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Facing Ethics Case re $50M ‘Taj Mahal’ Court Building Project, Judge Points Finger at 14 Colleagues

Posted Jun 9, 2011 5:51 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Corrected: An appeals court judge in Tallahassee, Fla., who is facing a legal ethics case over his role in a controversial $50 million courthouse construction project, among other claimed misconduct, says he's not the only one who approved it.

The other judges in the 1st District Court of Appeal also participated in key decision-making, says Judge Paul Hawkes. He is charged by the Judicial Qualifications Commission with abusing his authority, destroying public records and conduct unbecoming a judge that shows him unfit for office, reports the St. Petersburg Times.

“All on the court agreed to speak with one voice,’’ says Hawkes in a motion to dismiss filed yesterday. There are 15 judges on the court.

Among other issues, the JQC contends that Hawkes has applied a “coercive and intimidating leadership style’’ in his dealings with some court personnel and questioned the appropriateness of asking a court worker to purchase vinegar to clean his personal coffee pot.

If the ethics charges are upheld both by the JQC and a hearing panel, the state supreme court could be asked to impose discipline up to and including removal from the bench.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Grand Jury Probe of $48M ‘Taj Mahal’ Courthouse Goes Nowhere"

ABAJournal.com: "Judges Get Mahogany, Granite Counters, Soundproof Toilets and More at New ‘Taj Mahal’ Courthouse"

Corrected at 11:25 a.m. to say that Judge Hawkes is a state judge for the 1st District Court of Appeal.

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