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Case reveals rift on appeals court

TALLAHASSEE — His fellow judges began calling him "Dr. Phil," comparing him with the TV psychologist, Judge Phil Padovano testified Tuesday as he defended a fellow judge facing ethics charges.

Padovano tried to make peace as war was breaking out among the 15 judges at the 1st District Court of Appeal. For several months early in 2006, Padovano urged his fellow judges to abandon a series of written opinions critical of each other.

He failed.

The judges of his court are still lined up against each other, testifying this week before the Judicial Qualifications Commission, a disciplinary panel that wants Judge Michael E. Allen punished for writing an opinion critical of fellow Judge Charles J. Kahn Jr.

Some of the court's judges say Allen harbored animosity toward Kahn, while others say Allen was a conscientious jurist, concerned that public perception of his court might suffer because of Kahn's involvement in a criminal case against former Senate President W.D. Childers.

Before he was appointed to the court in 1991, Kahn had been law partners with Fred Levin, a Pensacola trial lawyer who was a longtime friend of Childers'. For years, Kahn had routinely disqualified himself from cases involving Levin's law firm — but he remained on a three-judge panel that heard Childers' appeal of a bribery conviction.

Three character witnesses supported Allen Tuesday: former House Speaker James Harold Thompson, Leon State Attorney Willie Meggs and Leon Public Defender Nancy Daniels.

Meggs said he called Allen after reading his opinion on Childers and told him he had never been so proud of anyone in his life.

At the end of the session Tuesday, Allen's attorney, Bruce Rogow, called for the removal of JQC panel member Miles McGrane III, a former Florida Bar president, saying his hostile questioning of witnesses showed a bias against Allen.

Judge Paul Backman, who is presiding, said he will rule on the request today, when the hearing resumes with closing arguments.

Case reveals rift on appeals court 06/10/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 4:07pm]
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