Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Trial begins for judge who criticized colleague

TALLAHASSEE — An unprecedented trial began Monday — of a judge accused of being unfit to hold office because he criticized a fellow judge in a written opinion.

Testifying in the Judicial Qualifications Commission hearing against him, 1st District Court of Appeal Judge Michael Allen said he wrote the opinion because he feared that public perception of the court would suffer from the way it handled the bribery conviction of former Senate President W.D. Childers.

Allen said he didn't think Judge Charles J. Kahn Jr. was corrupt, but he worried that politically savvy people would assume the worst if Kahn led an appellate panel that overturned the bribery conviction of Childers. Kahn once practiced law with Fred Levin, a close Childers associate who helped Kahn get appointed to the court.

Correspondence between the judges on the appellate court was introduced into evidence Monday, and e-mails showed several judges tried to talk Allen out of filing his opinion. But none of the judges apparently thought he was violating judicial ethics when he wrote it.

One by one, the judges of the state's biggest and busiest appellate court are taking the witness stand in a remarkable proceeding that has laid bare their behind-the-scenes animosity.

It's not pretty.

Relations between Judge Allen and Judge James Wolf were apparently among the worst. In e-mails and conversations, the judges referred to each other's opinions as

"bulls---,'' and Wolf referred to Allen as "that son of a bitch in the corner office,'' according to testimony Monday.

Some of Allen's fellow judges say the veteran judge has long displayed animosity toward Judge Kahn, but none could attribute a reason for it.

Allen, called to the witness stand by qualifications commission attorney F. Wallace Pope of Clearwater, said he disapproved of Kahn's behavior and actions but wrote the opinion because he feared for the reputation of a court he loves.

The judges of the 1st District Court of Appeal also found themselves investigating accusations that Kahn was having an affair with a clerk employed by the court. Thirteen of the 15 judges on the court filed a formal complaint against Kahn over the affair and forced him to resign as chief judge, but the qualifications commission dismissed the complaint.

Kahn is expected to be called as a witness by the commission this morning.

A five-member panel of members of the commission are hearing the case and will recommend discipline to the Florida Supreme Court. The high court can drop the charges, reprimand Allen or remove him from office.

"It took courage''

Here is the e-mail exchange between judges Paul Hawkes and Michael Allen on June 21, 2006, a week before Allen's opinion critical of another judge was published.

Hawkes writes Allen:

I think your opinion is very moving. ... I know it took courage. ... I bet that this stand by you will be one of the memories that you take from your service on this court; one of the best memories. Great battles in defense of principles are the very best aspects of public service. I also don't believe that great battles diminish or harm an institution.

Let the battle be joined.


Allen writes back:

Thank you for this note, Paul. You have beautifully crystallized exactly what this is about, though I have my doubts that I will ever recall this "battle'' with any measure of fondness.

Hawkes writes again to Allen:

Not fondness of "the fight,'' but fondness that you fought, and it was difficult, but what you thought was right. Fighting for what is "right,'' especially when it was difficult, is what produces the memories. Most avoid those battles and, as a consequence, erode their own sense of self-respect. Running away causes shame, standing firm produces pride (the good kind).

Trial begins for judge who criticized colleague 06/09/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 6:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Harvey regenerates into tropical depression, sets aim on Texas coastline


    The system moving toward Texas has regenerated into Tropical Depression Harvey, prompting storm surge and hurricane watches on portions of the Lone Star State's coast, according to the National Hurricane …

    [National Hurricane Center]
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay this week: SNL's Pete Davidson, Rodeo Fest, Disney Halloween party


    USF ROUND-UP: Pete Davidson

    Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson will headline this year's University of South Florida Round-Up Comedy Show, a back-to-school tradition at USF. Davidson revealed in March the reason he had "kinda been missing" for a spell last season on SNL was …

    Characters parade down Main Street, U.S.A in Mickey’s Boo-to You Halloween Parade during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom.
  3. In honor of Ed Sheeran's Tampa show, 5 more underrated redheads

    Music & Concerts

    “Is Ed Sheeran sexy?"

    Jay Cridlin, our pop music/culture critic, was on the phone with singer James Blunt, who is opening for Sheeran at Amalie Arena on Tuesday. But Jay could have been talking to anyone.

    Eddie Redmayne
  4. Plant City farmer hopes robot pickers can save strawberry industry from shrinking labor force


    PLANT CITY — If current trends continue, the region's status as a major strawberry producer will depend in large part on what happens in Mexico.

    Strawberry pickers work during the daytime, when fruit is more likely to bruise. Machine pickers can work at night. The owner of Wish Farms in Plant City is developing automated pickers and hopes to see them at work on a widespread basis in five years. [Times file]
  5. Charlie Crist asking local youth for advice on how to stop deadly car theft epidemic

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is meeting with local children Wednesday night to get their thoughts on how to stop the deadly juvenile auto theft epidemic plaguing Pinellas County.

    From left: St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Congressman Charlie Crist, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway during a meeting earlier this year to discuss the car theft epidemic among Pinellas youth. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]