Remember the judge in Florida who was selling books from her ministry to lawyers in her courtroom and a whole host of other improprieties, including erasing evidence? Well the Florida Supreme Court has now unanimously voted to remove her from the bench.
“We conclude that Judge Hawkins’ conduct is fundamentally inconsistent with the responsibilities of judicial office, demonstrating present unfitness to hold office, and that removal is the only appropriate sanction,” Supreme Court justices wrote in their 36-page opinion released Thursday. “Based on the violations found by the Hearing Panel, which were supported by clear and convincing evidence, we conclude removal from the bench is the only appropriate sanction in this case.”
“It is our hope,” justices continued, “that this decision will serve as a reminder to judges of their continuing obligation to personally observe the high standards of conduct mandated by the Code of Judicial Conduct, and to conduct themselves in all things in a manner that will demonstrate candor and preserve the integrity and independence of the judiciary.”
Six justices agreed with the decision, with Justice Peggy Quince recused from the case…
The JQC charged Hawkins in December 2012 and added new charges in June 2013, all related to her side ministry business. The charges fell under five broad categories: use of her office to promote a private business, failure to respect and comply with the law, failure to act in a manner promoting public confidence in the judiciary, failure to devote full attention to judicial office and lack of candor with the JQC.The commission, which held a three-day hearing in the case in October, found her guilty of selling and offering to sell ministry products in the courthouse to lawyers and employees, promoting the sale of the products on her website that included photos of her in judicial robes and using her judicial assistant to promote the sale of ministry products.
The JQC also found her guilty of failing to comply with state tax laws when selling ministry products, misleading investigators, reading magazines during court proceedings and not devoting her full time for judicial duties.
During the panel’s investigation, Hawkins was reluctant to provide information including ministry financial data held on computers and flash drives.
Investigators determined that she deleted financial data the morning she was instructed to provide it under a subpoena. Hawkins ultimately produced her computers and other documents for inspection.
I can’t imagine how anyone could dispute that this is the right result.