Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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

TALLAHASSEE — There may never be another "Taj Mahal'' courthouse in Florida.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady on Monday ordered all future appellate court construction projects to be approved in advance by the state's highest court and monitored by the court system's administrative employees.

Canady's order comes just days after he promised reform in a statement delivered to members of an angry Senate budget committee that summoned two judges from the 1st District Court of Appeal to explain a new courthouse that includes 27 flat-screen TVs, bathrooms and kitchens for all 15 judges, granite counters and desktops and miles of African mahogany.

"Every dollar should be spent wisely and with an unceasing awareness that it is hard-earned taxpayer money,'' Canady said in a statement. "The construction of a courthouse is a long-term investment in a building where important public business is done. But that does not justify extravagant expenditures.

"Courthouses should be dignified, durable and functional. They should not be grandiose, monumental and luxurious.''

Canady's actions marked the first formal change prompted by the lavish new building, but it was not the chief justice's first move to repair the damage to the court system's public image. In November, Canady quietly forced Judge Paul M. Hawkes to resign as chief judge of the 1st DCA.

Hawkes remains on the court and was with fellow judge Brad Thomas in the Senate last week to answer questions about the new building. The two judges issued an apology of sorts, saying they didn't mean to exceed "legislative intent'' in building the new courthouse.

Canady also is considering plans to relocate about 50 state court system employees, using some of the extra space in the new courthouse. The new building provides about 1,000 square feet per employee, far more than the 180 square feet per employee recommended by the Department of Management Services, the state's landlord.

Judge Robert Benton, who replaced Hawkes as chief of the 1st DCA, declined to comment Monday on the new regulations.

Sen. Mike Fasano, chairman of the budget committee that has questioned the new courthouse, said he was pleased with Canady's order and hopes it will prevent "an irresponsible rogue judge from spending tax dollars as we saw with Hawkes and Thomas.''

The judges, both former legislative staffers, spent five years lobbying for money to build the courthouse and got authorization for a $33.5 million bond issue into a transportation bill on the last day of the 2007 session.

Fasano also has asked the Senate to adopt a rule that would impose a 72-hour cooling off period on last-minute amendments that have a fiscal impact.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady imposes order to prevent another 'Taj Mahal' 01/17/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 17, 2011 9:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated


    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person



    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears


    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings