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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lawyers for Judge Paul Hawkes discussing settlement with Judicial Qualifications Commission



Lawyers for 1st District Judge Paul M. Hawkes and the Judicial Qualifications Commission are discussing a settlement that would resolve the pending charges against the judge without a trial.

In other courtrooms, it would be called "plea bargaining," but in the world of disciplining judges lawyers for both sides have submitted secret proposals to members of the Commission that charged Hawkes with conduct unbecoming a judge. An initial proposal was rejected by the members of the commission.

Judge Paul L. Backman, chairman of the JQC panel that will hear the case if it goes to trial, on Friday will consider a request made Thursday by lawyers on both sides to postpone Hawkes' trial until early next year. He had been scheduled to face trial Oct. 31.

The charges involve Hawkes’ role in the construction of a new $50 million courthouse near Tallahassee that has become a symbol for government excess in the middle of a recession that has the state’s other courthouses cutting staff and services.

Hawkes is also accused of bullying other state employees, destroying public records and attempting to get a furniture vendor to provide him and relatives with a free trip.

The JQC has the power to recommend disciplinary action that could include Hawkes' removal from the bench. The Florida Supreme Court can accept or reject recommendations from the commission.

-- Lucy Morgan, Times senior correspondent

[Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 5:45pm]


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