Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Appeals court judge in Taj Mahal case seeks dismissal of charges

TALLAHASSEE — Lawyers for 1st District Court of Appeal Judge Paul M. Hawkes urged the Judicial Qualifications Commission Friday to throw out charges filed against him this year in connection with the Taj Mahal scandal.

Circuit Judge Paul L. Backman, chairman of the JQC panel that will play a major role in determining whether Hawkes remains on the bench, said he will rule next week on Hawkes' request to dismiss the charges and eject special prosecutor Wallace Pope Jr.

Hawkes is accused of multiple counts of conduct unbecoming a judge in connection with the way he lobbied legislators for money to build the posh $50 million courthouse many have dubbed a Taj Mahal.

He is also accused of intimidating state employees in charge of construction, destroying public records and attempting to get a furniture vendor to provide him and others with a free trip.

Describing the charges and Pope's conduct as outrageous, Tallahassee lawyer Ken Sukhia said Hawkes is entitled to an unbiased prosecutor and a process free of any taint.

While questioning witnesses in November, Pope described Hawkes and other judges appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush as "stooges" inflicted on a court system Bush disliked.

Pope said the comments were made in an effort to establish rapport with a witness after the witness expressed concern for the quality of judges appointed by Bush.

"The judge doesn't have control over the way the investigation is done," Pope said.

Hawkes appeared before the JQC's investigative panel in April and spent more than four hours responding to questions about his conduct before the panel voted to file charges.

"The investigating committee was not persuaded and filed formal charges," Pope said.

The JQC could recommend disciplinary action including removal from office but it will be up to the Florida Supreme Court to decide what happens to Hawkes.

Appeals court judge in Taj Mahal case seeks dismissal of charges 07/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 12:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. From the food editor: Shout out to my husband, the world's least picky eater, with this bowl of pappardelle


    Oh, hello, end of October. When the heck did you get here?

    Pappardelle with Cream Sauce and Mint. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  2. Bucs: Quick and easy fixes for what ails Tampa Bay?


    The Bucs are 2-4 and have lost five straight road games, so there's plenty to fix. What's the quickest and easiest fix for coach Dirk Koetter and Tampa Bay? The Times' Bucs coverage team weighs in:


    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, seen during the first half, had a heck of a day calling plays, Tom Jones writes. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. New Orleans celebrity chef John Besh steps down after sexual harassment allegations


    Celebrity chef John Besh became a symbol of the rebirth of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina leveled the city. Now he faces a storm of his own. On Monday, Besh stepped down from the restaurant group he founded and co-owns after more than two dozen women alleged his company fostered a culture of sexual abuse.

    Chef John Besh attends the Supper to benefit the Global Fund to fight AIDS in New York in May 2015. Besh is stepping down from the restaurant group that bears his name after a newspaper reported that 25 current or former employees of the business said they were victims of sexual harassment. [Brad Barket | Invision/AP, File]
  4. No serious injuries after deputy rear-ends school bus in Thonotosassa


    THONOTOSASSA — No one was seriously injured Tuesday morning after a Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy rear-ended a school bus, authorities said.

  5. New Port Richey man dies after losing control of vehicle on wet roads


    A New Port Richey man was killed in a rollover crash Monday night after he lost control of his vehicle on wet roads.