Amid a statewide budget crisis, Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee is about to get a new courthouse that some call a “Taj Mahal,” reports the St. Petersburg Times. Scheduled to be completed in November, it’s a $48 million behemoth in which each judge will get a 60-inch LCD flat screen television in chambers (trimmed in mahogany), a private bathroom (featuring granite countertops) and a kitchen (complete with microwave and refrigerator). It got funded by a last-minute amendment on the last day of a legislative session.
The funding was buried in the middle of a 142-page transportation bill, approved the last day of the 2007 session. The state had never floated a bond issue to build a courthouse, but Sen. Victor Crist of Tampa attached the amendment that allowed the court to float a $33.5 million bond issue. Several legislators say they were not aware the courthouse amendment was in the transportation bill when they voted on it. The court began looking at a new building in 2006 after rejecting the possibility of expanding its existing, rent-free building in downtown Tallahassee. Lawmakers say two 1st District judges, Chief Judge Paul Hawkes and Judge Brad Thomas, lobbied furiously for the new building.