The appellate judge who orchestrated the construction of the Tallahassee, Fla., “Taj Mahal” courthouse was charged Tuesday with abusing his authority as a judge, destroying public records and conduct that demonstrates he is unfit to hold office, reports the St. Petersburg Times. The charges against Judge Paul M. Hawkes were leveled by the Judicial Qualifications Commission after an investigation that focused on his push for a new $50-million courthouse in the midst of a budget crisis. The panel said Hawkes' conduct “demeaned the entire court system of the state of Florida.”
The panel said Hawkes forced the removal of a state employee who questioned the project; destroyed documents related to the cost of the new courthouse, and attempted to get a furniture vendor to provide a free trip to Churchill Downs racetrack in Kentucky for himself, his brother and a son. Hawkes, 54, a former Citrus County legislator appointed to the court by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002, was forced to resign as chief judge in November after state auditors questioned the legality of the way he and other judges handled the new courthouse.