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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Judge Hawkes' trial will be Jan. 30 if no deal



Judge Paul Hawkes will face trial before the Judicial Qualifications Commission on Jan. 30 if he can't reach a deal with members of the panel that polices the conduct of the state's judges.

Hawkes is charged with conduct unbecoming a judge in connection with his pursuit of a fancy new courthouse for the 1st District Court of Appeal. Dubbed a "Taj Mahal'' by critics, the $50 million courthouse was built while the rest of the state court system was laying off employees and slashing budgets.

In addition to bullying state officials in charge of construction, Hawkes is accused of illegally destroying public records and attempting to get a free trip from a furniture company doing business with the court.

He had been scheduled to face trial Oct. 31 but Judge Paul Backman, chairman of the panel that will hear the case, agreed to postpone it while lawyers for Hawkes and the commission attempt to reach a settlement.

Secret negotiations between the lawyers led to one proposed settlement that was rejected by the commission. Some judges accused of wrongdoing avoid trial by agreeing to resign or accept a public reprimand.

Hawkes, a former Citrus County lawmaker,  was appointed to the appellate court in 2001 by then Gov. Jeb Bush.

-- Lucy Morgan, Times senior correspondent

[Last modified: Friday, September 30, 2011 6:26pm]


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