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Florida Judge Booted for Running Ministry from the Bench

A Florida judge has been booted from her bench after it was discovered she was running her for-profit ministry from the courtroom and not paying attention to her job.

Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins had turned her court into a selling floor for her ministry-related products, using a court employee to hawk her wares and selling to anyone, including the lawyers, who entered her courtroom.

To make matters worse, even when she was presiding over cases, she did not bother to do a good job or even listen to the proceedings. Often, she would leaf through magazines and ask lawyers to repeat what they said to cover up her inattention.

“Your involvement with [Gaza Road Ministries] caused you to devote less than your full time and full attention to your judicial duties,” the court found, noting she often did not bother to inform the court or lawyers involved in cases when she would leave town on a ministry trip.

The Supreme Court also said that despite her attempts at cover-ups, it seemed obvious she simply did not care even to pay attention to the matters of the court.

“While presiding over jury trials you have been observed openly reading magazines, and when questioned explained that you were catching up with your reading. You also explained that if an objection was made, you could cover up your lack of attentiveness by asking counsel to rephrase the objection,” the court observed.

She was also known for her inconsistent rulings, including making questionable judgments that seemed to elude commonly practiced law.

This is not the first time Hawkins has been in trouble for misconduct on the bench. In October she was suspended for 90 days and ordered to pay a $17,000 fine.

As per the ruling, Hawkins will not be allowed back on the bench unless she can  “show cause why removal from office is not the appropriate sanction in this case.”

It is unclear if Hawkins and her lawyers plan to present any evidence in an attempt to get her back on the bench.

Photo Credit: Tallahassee Democrat

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.