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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady imposes order to prevent another 'Taj Mahal'



Responding to criticism of a new $50 million courthouse built by the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, the Florida Supreme Court has taken steps to keep runaway construction projects from ever happening again.

In an administrative order issued Monday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady said the district courts will now have to get approval from the Supreme Court through the state court administrator's offices before any money can be spent. In addition, plans for every new project must be approved in advance by court administrators.

It's the first formal rule change designed to prevent another "Taj Mahal'' from being built in the state and comes just days after members of a Senate committee excoriated two judges from the 1st DCA for building a luxurious courthouse filled with African mahogany and granite with kitchens and bathrooms for every judge.

Faced with a room full of angry senators, Judges Paul Hawkes and Brad Thomas, both former legislative staffers who spent five years lobbying for the money to build the courthouse and then supervised every detail of its construction, issued an apology of sorts, saying they never meant to go beyond "legislative intent.''

The court moved into the new courthouse last month but is likely to be making room for about 50 employees from the court administrator's office when plans are completed for renovating the newly completed building.
A review of the project completed by state auditors has been referred to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which has the power to discipline or remove judges.

Lucy Morgan, Times senior correspondent

[Last modified: Monday, January 17, 2011 1:09pm]


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