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Move ahead against Hapner

Elizabeth "Betsey" Hapner did the right thing by resigning her judgeship. Her action Thursday befitted the seriousness of the charges against her and the ethical standards expected of judicial officeholders. Now the Florida Supreme Court and the Pinellas-Pasco state attorney should do the right thing, too, by continuing their proceedings against the Hillsborough jurist.

Moving ahead in the wake of Hapner's resignation is neither unfair nor moot. The court has a pending motion by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission for Hapner's removal. The Pinellas prosecutor is investigating whether Hapner committed perjury during her divorce.

Dropping either case now would send an awful message _ that the legal profession cannot regulate itself _ and would allow the accused to dictate the conduct and outcome of judicial proceedings.

Moreover, the public, which elected Hapner, deserves a final ruling on the charges against her.

The JQC, which recommended dismissal, found that Hapner showed a "pattern of irresponsible and dishonest behavior" and a "lack of respect for the laws and rules of the court she has sworn to serve." That finding reflects on behavior far beyond Hapner's fitness as a judge.

Hopefully, Hapner's resignation will prompt fast action by the court and the special prosecutor. Though the tantamount concern must be preserving the integrity of the legal system's checks and balances, the profession must also recognize the pain this episode has caused and the need for all involved to move on.

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