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'Taj Mahal' outrage is just for show unless the judges are kicked out

You will be happy to know that at a big hearing Wednesday in Tallahassee, everybody agreed that this "Taj Mahal" courthouse scandal is Very, Very Bad.

All that African mahogany, installed for the 1st District Court of Appeal? Very bad.

The granite countertops?

The two spacious "robing rooms"?

The private, soundproof bathrooms for each individual judge? The expensive artwork and decorations? Very bad.

Judges using sleazy politics to sneak their new palace through the Legislature?

Playing footsie with contractors and taking free junkets from them?

Judges bullying state bureaucrats to hijack the normal construction process?

Yep, all bad.

What's more, the state senators who held the hearing even got to yell in person at the two judges most involved, which was great sport.

The two judges could not have been more different. The court's former chief judge and mastermind of the courthouse, Paul Hawkes, was evasive, fast talking, like a used-car salesman trying to keep the customer from reading the fine print. He wouldn't have — no, he couldn't have — told the senators the straight time of day if asked.

It was pathological.

About that mahogany? It was a subcontractor who wanted a more expensive wood, not the judges, Hawkes said: "I don't know anything about wood."

About all the granite countertops? The court needed a "durable" surface, he explained: "We handle 7,000 cases a year. These files slide around."

The other judge, Bradford Thomas, originally refused to come but got, shall we say, "encouragement" to cooperate from the Florida Supreme Court (which clearly has been embarrassed by the lower appeals court).

I must say that Thomas showed more guts, standing up, looking the senators in the eye and totally denying any wrongdoing. So in a foxhole, I am picking Thomas over Hawkes. Beyond that I got nothin' good to say.

The senators all agreed that we need to make sure that this Never Happens Again.

Then they broke for lunch.

Now, at this point, let's point out one teeny, inconvenient but persistent fact:

THE JUDGES ARE IN THE COURTHOUSE ANYWAY.

They. Got. Away. With. It.

They won.

Given today's climate, let me also say this: I love the judges of the 1st District Court as my fellow human beings. I wish them happiness and peace and joy in life. I would defend their lives and safety with mine, and their constitutional independence in judicial matters with full force.

But in this matter, the judges who did this are hacks.

They are thugs. They are bums. They should be impeached. They should be fired. They should be indicted if possible.

Most of all, here is what the Legislature should do — what it absolutely has to do with the 1st District Court of Appeal:

Kick it out of the Taj Mahal.

Kick the judges out. Make them move. Give them a warehouse, a converted motel, a house trailer.

Move the Florida Supreme Court itself to the Taj, or the state court bureaucracy, or, for all I care, the Department of Weights and Widgets. Or sell it, once the market improves.

Anything else is Tallahassee bull.

'Taj Mahal' outrage is just for show unless the judges are kicked out 01/12/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 6:56pm]

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