Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins is facing the possibility of a $17,00 fine, a three month suspension without pay and a public reprimand.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission ruled Judge Hawkins ran her religious business called Gaza Road Ministries out of her office.
In a 36 page report released publicly Tuesday, the commission found Hawkins was guilty of misconduct on the bench and hampering the investigation in her case.
The report comes after a public hearing in October.
The report states the proposed suspension and fine are roughly the same as the cost of the investigation.
The commission’s recommendations for punishment will now go to the Florida Supreme Court for a final decision.
By: Andy Alcock October 9, 2013
Tallahassee, FL – An ethics hearing against a local judge has now concluded.
Judge Judith Hawkins took the witness stand in her own defense.
“You know, if you want a picture of me, you can google me and get a picture of me in a robe,” said Hawkins.
She was responding to one of several questions about why she included a picture of herself in her robe on her business website Gaza Road Ministries where religious materials are for sale.
Those questions came from panel members who will recommend whether she is sanctioned or not.
Panel member Harry Duncanson even read one of the judicial ethics rules or canons to her.
“A judge shall not lend the prestige of her judicial office to advance private interests,” said Duncanson.
Judge Hawkins admitted her judicial assistant worked on her business while at the courthouse.
She also admitted selling those religious materials from her business, including a book, in the courthouse, including her courtroom.
Panel member Jerry Osteryoung asked about it.
“Did you understand how some people could be intimidated or feel coerced to buy your book just because of your position?” asked Osteryoung.
“I guess the answer is, forgive me for thinking for thinking that anyone at the courthouse, I guess other than a judge, I should consider to be more than a professional relationship,” Hawkins answered.
Panelists also asked questions about why Judge Hawkins refused to give investigators in this case some requested information.
Question: “It took the hearing officer a couple of orders to compel you to do so. Is that correct ma’am?”
“That would be correct,” Hawkins answered.
The panel will now review the formal charges against Judge Hawkins.
A recommendation is expected to be issued in the next 6 to 8 weeks.
Then Florida’s Supreme Court will ultimately decide what to do.
The penalties range from none to removal from the bench.
By: Andy Alcock October 8, 2013, 9am
Judge Hawkins has taken the witness stand in the third day of the ethics hearing.
She said she refused to provide a list of people she sold books to in the courthouse because the prosecutor was on a fishing expedition and she wasn’t going to put the fish in the net for them.
WCTV has a reporter in the courtroom, and will continue to bring you the latest updates.
By: Andy Alcock October 8, 2013
Leon County, FL – Day two of testimony in the Judge Judith Hawkins ethics ceremony in part focused on whether or not Judge Hawkins has been frequently distracted during proceedings in her courtroom.
Assistant State Attorney Anna Norris was one of both current and past assistant state attorneys to testify against Judge Hawkins.
Norris testified in her appearances before Judge Hawkins, the judge would often be distracted and not pay attention.
In particular, Norris testified when she approached the bench on several occasions, she’d see Judge Hawkins reading a magazine.
“I have to say the feeling I got, oh that doesn’t look like the Florida Bar, I just remember thinking that looks like a magazine and it looks inappropriate,” said Norris.
Norris also demonstrated how she says Judge Hawkins would sometimes treat attorneys arguing cases in her courtroom.
She testified Judge Hawkins would have her head down covering her eyes apparently reading and would shoo the attorneys away like flies when they asked for a ruling.
Also an issue in the case is whether or not Judge Hawkins sale of religious materials in the Leon County Courthouse constitutes a violation.
In her deposition, Judge Hawkins said she only sold the materials to people she considered friends in the courthouse.
Karen Dyke, who’s a receptionist in the court administrator’s office, said she has a professional relationship with Judge Hawkins.
Dyke testified she bought a religious book from Judge Hawkins after the judge told her about it.
However Dyke testified she was not coerced and chose to buy the book.
The ethics hearing may wrap up as soon as Wednesday.
Judge Hawkins may testify in her own defense at that time.
Possible penalties against her range from none to removal from the bench.
Leon County, FL – A Leon County Judge is now facing a state ethics panel.
Judge Judith Hawkins faces five formal charges.
They include using the prestige of her office to advance her own financial gain.
Judge Hawkins sat quietly at her ethics hearing as a nearly full gallery watched.
One central issue in her case is the sale of religious pamphlets for her side business Gaza Road Ministries.
While Judge Hawkins didn’t speak, case investigator Allen Beiner read her responses to questions posed at her deposition about her business and whether or not she violated judicial conduct rules or canons
Question: “Did you sell some of your books in the court administrator’s office?” Hawkins Answer: “I’m sure I did that, I did.”
Question: “And did they pay you?” Hawkins Answer: “I’m sure that they did.
Question: “Did you approach attorneys and offer to sell them books in the courthouse?” Hawkins Answer: “I’m sure that I did.”
Question: “Can you tell me who those attorneys were?” Hawkins Answer: “No I will not.”
Question: “Do you think it’s appropriate for a judge to accept payment from a lawyer that appears before her in a courtroom for a religious tract that she’s selling?” Hawkins Answer: “Apparently it’s against the canons and if it’s against the canons, it’s against the canons.”
Former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald Kogan is Hawkins’ attorney.
He says some of the case against Judge Hawkins is misstated, blown out of proportion or outright falsehoods.
He also noted her peers named Judge Hawkins outstanding county judge in Florida among many professional accomplishments and community service.
Kogan also said the judge has been flooded with information demands in this case.
“All letters, e-mails, telegrams, telexs, teletypes, correspondence, contract drafts, agreements, notes to file, reports,” he said.
Prosecutor Greg Miller says he has 35 witnesses.
The hearing could take up to a week to complete.
When it’s finished the panel will make a recommendation to Florida’s Supreme Court.
Possible penalties range from none to Judge Hawkins removal from the bench.
By: Andy Alcock October 7, 2013 10am
Tallahassee, FL — Judge Hawkins final hearing before the Judicial Qualifications Commission has begun.
Hawkins has been accused accused of selling and promoting her religious business products while on the bench.
If found guilty of the charges, she could be removed from the bench.
WCTV will bring you the latest updates from the courtroom.
By: Andy Alcock
Tallahassee, FL — A Leon County judge denies she failed to devote full attention to her office.
Judge Judith Hawkins, through her attorney, responded to amended ethics charges filed against her in June.
Judge Hawkins faces multiple claims she sold and promoted her religious business products while on the bench.
She’s also accused of using her work computer for her Gaza Road Ministries business.
In her response to many of the additional charges, her attorney says there wasn’t enough information to respond.
Judge Hawkins’ hearing before the Judicial Qualifications Commission is scheduled for October.
If found guilty of the charges, she could be removed from the bench.
Tallahassee, FL – A local judge is accused of using her courtroom to profit in a side business.
The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission has filed a notice of formal charges against Judge Judith Hawkins.
Judge Hawkins sits on the bench in Leon County.
According to a new complaint against her, she’s accused of using the Leon County Courthouse, including her courtroom, to run a side business.
Specifically, Judge Hawkins owns a business called Gaza Road Ministries.
She sells religious materials.
According to the notice of formal charges Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission filed against her, Judge Hawkins has sold those materials all around the Leon County Courthouse, including in her chambers and courtroom.
The complaint claims Judge Hawkins has sold the materials to attorneys who regularly appear before her in court.
Additionally, she’s accused of using her Leon County e-mail account, her Judicial Assistant and her office spaces and equipment to create, edit and promote Gaza Road Ministry products and made more than 13,000 dollars last year.
She’s further accused of taking time away from her judicial duties to promote her business to the detriment of the prompt and efficient administration of justice.
Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan is representing Judge Hawkins.
He says he’ll file a response to the accusations with Judicial Qualifications Commission before Christmas.
Kogan says the possible outcomes range from clearing Judge Hawkins of any wrong doing to her removal from the bench where she makes more than $142,000 a year.
Associated Press Release
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge is facing ethics charges alleging she’s using her office to promote a private interest — her for-profit religious ministry.
An investigative panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission filed the allegation on Wednesday against Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins.
The panel accused the Tallahassee-based judge of selling or attempting to sell religious books, study guides and other publications to lawyers and staffers at the county courthouse.
It noted a website for her business, Gaza Road Ministries, includes pictures of Hawkins in her judicial robes, one showing her sitting on the court bench.
She’s also accused of using her judicial assistant, courthouse office and equipment to create, edit and promote her products.
Hawkins did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment.