No More Building Like 1st DCA

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida


Any future court building will have to be approved by the State Courts Administrator, and that office will assign someone to monitor the project, under an order issued Monday by Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady in response to the controversy over the new district appeals court building in Tallahassee.

Canady issued a terse 2-page order Monday decreeing that no contract can be signed without the approval of the administrator’s office. Canady actually signed the order late last week following a tense meeting in which the court came under criticism from the Legislature for how the 1st District Court of Appeal came to be.

The new courthouse for the district panel was pushed through by two of the court’s judges, Brad Thomas and Paul Hawkes, who were hauled before legislators to explain how the project came to produce such a large and, to some, lavish building, while the rest of the court system was struggling under dwindling budgets.

Both Thomas and Hawkes apologized, but said that they didn’t think there was anything wrong with their push for the court, or the way it was built.

In addition to monitoring all future building projects, the court administrators will provide updates to the chief justice from time to time. The Supreme Court’s Office of Inspector General will also conduct reviews of district court building projects during planning and construction, Canady ordered.

Canady also provided testimony last week, before the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, and expressed his concern over the nearly $50 million building, in Tallahassee’s Southwood area.

“The Supreme Court of Florida shares the public concern about the implementation of the First DCA building project,” Canady said in remarks that were provided to the committee. “Although operational oversight of … construction projects is necessarily an executive branch function, we understand that when the Legislature appropriates funds for the benefit of the judicial branch, the courts should help ensure that taxpayer money is handled with care. Every dollar spent should be spent wisely and with an unceasing awareness that it is hard-earned taxpayer money.”

The building went more than $15 over budget. Much of the criticism was over what some said was a lavishness in the appearance of the domed building, and what some critics said were overly expensive and unnecessary fixtures, such as large, flat-screen TVs for judges, and granite countertops.

“Courthouses should be dignified, durable and functional,” Canady said in his statement last week. “They should not be grandiose, monumental and luxurious.”

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  • by Joke on Jan 19, 2011 at 06:05 AM
    Typical. They build a lavish and rediculous place to "practice their trades". After it's built and done they say "We won't build anything like this again". What a joke. This country is and continues to be built on the backs of the middle class. We have continued to fund the rich and the welfare slobs and will continue to do so as long as this is America. It's the American way.
  • by Why? on Jan 19, 2011 at 05:48 AM
    Hawkes was up for retainment last Nov. I voted to remove him. It is sad that more local people don't educate themselves regarding our area. He should not have been retained and we can blame ourselves for it. I tried, but I needed help.
  • by c Location: tally on Jan 18, 2011 at 01:29 PM
    You people voted these people in. Thanks.
  • by Hindsight on Jan 18, 2011 at 12:27 PM
    Well good, I am glad those who spent the taxpayers $$ so stupidly were severely punished; just like all the past times. With accountability like this, I am proud to pay my taxes and contributed to society!! Ha! Ha! Same joke, different day.
  • by Concerned Location: Madison on Jan 18, 2011 at 11:36 AM
    Simple solution for future buildings. Assess the value of the building and hold the tax out of the budget. The occupants decide whether they want mahogany handrails or more take home pay. You know, the way the private sector does.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 18, 2011 at 11:10 AM
    TJ, I agree however this courthouse doesn't have a courtroom because they don't hold court they hold meetings. This is a total waist of money. Then when the judges were brought up in front of the committee their excuse was that they couldn't remember. Heads should roll on this, but not only the judges. How could this deal be put in a DOT bill at the last minute then get voted on. This just goes to show you the folks in the capitol don't have a clue on what they are voting on. Also, a past president of FSU told them how to get this job entered into the DOT bill. He also had received approval to spend money on their old court building for FSU's needs PRIOR to this bill being approved. How can you get funds approved on a building you don't control but are anticipating on controlling?
  • by Anonymous on Jan 18, 2011 at 10:38 AM
    If those two judges actually stated that they didn't think they did anything wrong then they should be booted from any future public office. That is beyond ridiculous. If a new building was necessary then fine, but do it with some discretion.
  • by Mo Location: Tallahassee on Jan 18, 2011 at 09:49 AM
    I say make all those responsible pay back every penny in full by next week. Obviously they can afford it since they had such a building built. Surprised they weren't ejected out of office for it. If I did this at any private company, I would have to pay it back quickly, and leave the company.
  • by Ron Location: Jacksonville on Jan 18, 2011 at 09:22 AM
    Wait until you get a look at the new Duval County Courthouse, which is going to be build in the next year.
  • by LOL Location: Tallahassee on Jan 18, 2011 at 08:55 AM
    This situation still makes me ill. I hate seeing money being thrown in the toilet. This should have never happened. I will continue to try to vote down those judges. I have their names posted on the side of my refrigerator.
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