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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Panel recommends suspending Leon County judge accused of using office to promote religious business



The state panel charged with investigating alleged misconduct by Florida judges has recommended suspension without pay, a fine and publicly reprimanding the Leon County Judge accused of operating a for-profit religious business from her office. Judge Judith W. Hawkins was charged in December 2012 with misconduct after she was accused of selling Bible study books and other products to people who regularly appear in her courtroom.

The nature of Hawkins' business was not specified in the report from the Judicial Qualifications Commission outlining its recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court. The report says those details are "irrelevant to these preceedings," and her business is identified only as "ABC."

But the Tampa Bay Times has previously reported on Gaza Road Ministries and its associated books, seminars, conferences and international mission trips.

Here is more from the News Service of Florida about the recommended punishment for Hawkins:

A hearing panel has recommended that a Leon County judge accused of conducting private business in the courthouse be publicly reprimanded, receive a three-month suspension without pay and face a $17,000 fine, according to documents filed with the Florida Supreme Court.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission hearing panel made the recommendation Monday about Judge Judith Hawkins. The case stems, in part, from allegations that Hawkins sold books at the courthouse, including to attorneys who appeared before her. The hearing panel found that Hawkins' actions violated standards of judicial conduct.

"Judge Hawkins operated a private, for profit business from her judicial chambers,'' the recommendation said. "She linked the sale of ABC's products to her judicial office, by a website, which depicted her in a judicial robe, and described her as a county court judge in Tallahassee. She used state time and resources (including her judicial assistant) to promote ABC."

[Last modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 2:43pm]


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