Last summer we told you about the brand new courthouse built for the 1st District Court of Appeals and designed to suit a king. Featuring African mahogany, granite, and a private kitchen and bath for every single judge, the building had a $50 million price tag and shook up the state as taxpayers wondered how this little item made it through on the transportation bill last year.
Well now the appellate judge at the center of the scandal is facing ethics charges from the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC). The Commission has charged Judge Paul M. Hawkes with abusing his authority, destroying public records, and conduct that demonstrates he is unfit to hold office. He will likely face a trial in front of the commission later in the year and has 20 days to respond to these charges against him.
Among the accusations against him—that he destroyed an entire filing cabinet full of budgetary paperwork and bills regarding the new courthouse. He is also alleged to have gotten rid of a staffer when they questioned the project. According to the Miami Herald, when the Department of Management Services personnel pointed out the project going over budget, Hawkes would “brush them off” and say he would simply go back to the Legislature to get more money.
Hawkes was forced to resign back in November by Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady. Though Hawkes isn’t the first judge wrapped up in the situation to be accused of being “less than candid”, he is the first to face actual charges.
For the accusations against him he could be reprimanded, fined, suspended, or completely removed from office.
It’s a little ironic and unsettling that a judge, one who’s supposed to be the hand of justice, is accused of misleading people and hiding the tracks of a completely over the top project such as this. People want to be able to trust that judges are ethical people, perhaps above all others within the criminal justice system.
When you go before a judge it’s normal to be nervous as they peer down at you from their elevated place at the front of the courtroom. It’s in these times that having an experienced defense attorney on your side can be helpful.
If you are facing criminal charges and nervous about going before a judge, contact our attorneys today for a consultation on your case.