Former Leon County Judge Has License Suspended

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By: Associated Press
September 25, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Supreme Court is suspending the law license of a former Leon County judge for nine months.

The high court ordered the suspension on Friday.

Justices had already removed Judge Judith Hawkins from the bench in October 2014.

Hawkins sold religious books, study guides and other publications to lawyers and staffers at the county courthouse as part of her business, Gaza Road Ministries.

The Supreme Court removed here from office because justices stated she was deceitful and dishonest during her disciplinary hearing, and that can't be tolerated of a judge.

Hawkins's actions during the investigation were also used as a reason to suspend her law license.

Update: WCTV Eyewitness News
July 20, 2015

TALLAHASSEE – More punishment could soon be dealt to a dismissed Leon County judge.

Judith Hawkins was removed from the bench in 2014 for distributing religious materials in the courthouse.

A Florida Bar referee today recommended she be suspended from the bar for nine months. The bar had filed a complaint against Hawkins earlier this year.

To read the full filed report, click on the attached document titled “Hawkins Report 7-20-15.”

News Release: Florida Bar Public Information
December 5, 2014

The Second Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission is accepting applications to fill the vacancy on the Leon County Court created by order of the Supreme Court of Florida in Case No. SC12-2495.

Applicants must have been members of The Florida Bar for the preceding five years, registered voters, and residents of the territorial jurisdiction of the court at the time of assuming office. Applications can be downloaded from The Florida Bar website at

Applicants are requested to provide the Judicial Nominating Commission with the following: (1) an original application and all attachments; (2) nine paper copies of the application and attachments; and (3) a DVD or flash drive containing an unredacted electronic copy in .pdf format of the application and all attachments and an electronic copy in .pdf format of the application and all attachments in which all information that the applicant believes is confidential and/or exempt from disclosure under Florida’s public records law, Chapter 119, Florida Statutes, has been redacted.

The application and all paper and electronic copies must be delivered to:

Rob Clarke, Chair
Second Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission
c/o Ausley McMullen
123 S. Calhoun Street
P.O. Box 391 (32302)
Tallahassee, FL 32301

The deadline for submission of the application is 5 p.m. EST on Tuesday, January 6, 2015.

November 26, 2014
By Julie Montanaro

The Florida Supreme Court has refused to reconsider its removal of a Leon County judge.

Judge Judith Hawkins was removed from the bench on October 30th.

Justices found she was selling religious materials at the courthouse and using her judicial office, time and assistant to help run her ministry.

They also found she had read magazines while on the bench and was not candid with investigators looking into the claims.

Hawkins had asked the Supreme Court for a rehearing, but justices denied that request today.

The governor will now have to appoint a new judge.

Governor's Office Spokesman John Tupps says once the Governor convenes the Judicial Nominating Committee, it will have 60 days to recommend nominees and then Governor Scott will have 60 days to make an appointment.

Court Administrator Grant Slayden says Hawkins has nearly four years left in her six year term.

Slayden says other judges have been covering Hawkins' docket since October 30th and will continue to cover cases on her court docket until a new judge is appointed. Slayden said they do not expect "any significant disruptions." He had no comment on the order itself.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
November 26, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida Supreme Court says that Judge Judith Hawkins' motion for a rehearing has been denied.

By: Andy Alcock
November 14, 2014

Today on the deadline, Hawkins filed a motion for a re-hearing before the Florida Supreme Court.

The motion is for the court to reconsider its decision to remove Hawkins from the bench.

The Supreme Court made that decision October 30th after she was found to have committed multiple code of conduct violations.

Attached is the PDF of the Motion for Re-hearing from the Florida Supreme Court.

By: Andy Alcock
November 12, 2014

There's a new effort to push for a second chance for a Leon County judge removed from the bench.

Eyewitness News was there October 30th when Judith Hawkins left the courtroom in the middle of a case after learning the Florida Supreme Court had removed her as a Leon County judge.

Now a group of ministers and other activists want her to return as judge.

"We're appealing to the supreme court for mercy to allow her a second chance because Judge Hawkins has always been known as the judge of second chances," said Pastor Joseph T. Wright.

Wright hosted a meeting at Tallahassee's Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in support of Judge Judith Hawkins.

Pastor Wright, the past president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference local chapter, and other activists believe the Supreme Court improperly removed Hawkins from the bench.

"Her infractions does not rise to the level, in our opinion, to remove a sitting judge from the bench," he said.

An investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission or JQC found Hawkins used her judicial office to promote a private business by selling her Gaza Road Ministry pamphlets at the courthouse.

The JQC also found Hawkins neglected her judicial duties and stonewalled investigators trying to get information.

The activists point out the JQC's original recommendation was for a suspension, fine and reprimand.

But the Supreme Court decided on removal.

"I kind of believe the Supreme Court overreacted for some reason," Wright said.

"We're trying to figure out the best way to handle this and also deal with the things that she wants and what our community needs," said Hawkins supporter Anita Davis.

"The Florida Supreme Court did not elect her, the people of the community and the district elected her and I think she should deserve the privelege to finish out her tenure and retire," Wright said.

Wright say Hawkins was aware of Tuesday's meeting, but neither encouraged it nor stopped it.

He also says Hawkins plans to appeal her removal before this Friday's deadline to do it
Hawkins and her attorney weren't available for comment.

UPDATE October 30, 2014 5:25 p.m.
By: James Buechele

Judge Judith Hawkins left her courtroom abruptly just after the supreme court issued a decisions removing her from office.

Minutes later, another judge took her seat. This all comes from Thursday's ruling by the Florida Supreme Court saying she should be removed for judicial misconduct for selling religious materials inside the courthouse.

Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor says the decision is a "travesty of justice."

"The due process issued is not been a solid stand-still process."

A judicial panel originally recommended Hawkins be reprimanded, pay a fine and face a 90 day suspension.

"It's like going to court and the judge gave you a sentence of probation and a fine and then the judge changing his mind coming back and giving you a death penalty."

Hawkins has 15 days to file a rehearing of her case. Chief judge Charles Francis says Hawkins will not be hearing any more new cases. Her currently scheduled cases and dockets will be heard by other judges.

By Julie Montanaro
October 30, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Judge Hawkins was on the bench in courtroom 2E when the Supreme Court issued its order removing her from the bench.

Just before noon, Hawkins called a five minute recess and when court reconvened Judge Ron Flury took the bench instead.

A spokesman for the Florida Supreme Court says Hawkins has 15 days to request a rehearing. Spokesman Craig Waters says it is up to the circuit's chief judge to decide if Hawkins will hear cases or make rulings in the meantime.

We have posed that question to Second Circuit Chief Judge Charles Francis and are awaiting his response.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
October 30, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Judge Judith Hawkins has been removed from Office according to a court opinion released Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court.

"We undertake this responsibility with caution and restraint, keeping in
mind, however, the utmost importance of maintaining the integrity of the justice system," the court opinion states in regard to determining disciplinary action.

Hawkins was found guilty of ethics charges alleging she had used her office to promote a private interest -- her for-profit religious ministry.

"We find, based on clear and convincing evidence, that Judge Judith W. Hawkins violated Canons 1, 2A, and 5D of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and that those violations cumulatively warrant the most severe sanction that we impose today," the court opinion continues. "Accordingly, we hereby remove Leon County Judge Judith W. Hawkins from the office of county judge, effective when this decision becomes final."

The entire court opinion is attached as "SC12-2495 Inquiry Concerning a Judge No 11-550 Re Judith W Hawkins".

Update by: Andy Alcock
August 15, 2014

A Leon County judge has made a final argument to try to keep her job.

Judge Judith Hawkins is facing possible removal from the bench.

Hawkins responded Thursday to an August 1st Judicial Qualifications Commission filing stating she should lose her job.

Judge Hawkins points out the JQC originally found she was still capable of service and deserving of a second chance after investigating the case.

A panel found Hawkins improperly sold religious materials in the courthouse and was uncooperative with investigators.

Florida's Supreme Court will ultimately decide if Hawkins stays on the bench or not.

Update: Supreme Court of Florida
August 15, 2014

Attached is a PDF of the Respondent's Response to the Commission's Reply to the Respondent’s Answer to the Court’s
Order to Show Cause.

News Release:
By Andy Alcock
August 1, 2014

In a scathing indictment of Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins, the Judicial Qualifications Commission responded Friday to Hawkins' plea to stay on the bench.

After investigating the case, the JQC found Hawkins abused her position as judge by selling religious materials at the courthouse, made multiple false statements to investigators and tried to conceal evidence.

The JQC wrote Hawkins "...has demonstrated not only a disdain for the Rule of Law, but a dangerous failure to comprehend what it requires of all citizens, especially judges."

Hawkins has until August 14th to respond to the JQC.

Florida's Supreme Court will ultimately decide if she stays on the bench or not.

News Release:
By: Andy Alcock
July 14, 2014

An embattled local judge is making a passionate plea to keep her job.

Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins responded Monday to the Florida Supreme Court's order to explain why she shouldn't be removed from the bench.

After admitting she used her office to promote the sale of her for profit religious materials, failed to properly file taxes for that business, read magazines during trials, failed to give full attention to her job as judge and didn't fully cooperate with the panel investigating those claims, the Judicial Qualifications Committee recommended a public reprimand, suspension and fine.

But in a June order, Florida's Supreme Court told Judge Hawkins she needed to explain why she shouldn't be removed from the bench.

Judge Hawkins responded to the court in her own words.

In a 15 page document, she writes, " is my plea to the court not to deny me the privilege and honor of fulfilling my assignment to serve..."

"To remove me from the Leon County bench deprives the citizens who elected me, the litigants who appear before me and the attorneys who practice in my courtroom of a dedicated judge."

"The allegations did not include any intentional injustice towards litigants, there were no allegations of bribery, stealing, or misappropriation of funds..."

"My service as a judge is anchored in my faith and the promise I made to the Leon County community during my historic election in 1996. My campaign slogan was 'experienced, fair, committed to justice.' During my investiture ceremony, I announced that I wanted my time in the judiciary to be marked by three things: integrity, excellence and consistent application of the law for all citizens."

"For almost 18 years as a judge on the Leon County court bench, I have kept my commitment to serve the citizens of Leon County, the Conference of County Court Judges and the legal profession. For example, volunteering in the Leon County School System for roughly twenty years represented my commitment to the next generation, passing on to them ideals and values that will make them better,
law-abiding citizens."

Hawkins also says if she's allowed to keep her job, she won't seek re-election.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission may now file a response to the Supreme Court to Judge Hawkins' reply.

The deadline for that response is August 4.

If the JQC responds, Judge Hawkins has until August 14 to answer that response.

Judge Hawkins full response to the Supreme Court can be found at This LINK.

Update: WCTV Eyewitness News
July 14, 2014

Judge Judith Hawkins, a Leon County judge facing the possibility of being removed from the bench, is pleading for her job.

In an answer to the court's order to show cause, Judge Hawkins has issued a 14-page response as to why she feels "removal from office is not the appropriate sanction in this case."

"My service as a judge is anchored in my faith and the promises I made to the Leon County community during my historic election in 1996. My campaign slogan was 'experienced, fair, committed to justice,'" Judge Hawkins stated in her response. "During my investiture ceremony, I announced that I wanted my time in the judiciary to be marked by three things: integrity, excellence, and consistent application of the law for all citizens."

The full response can be found at This LINK.

A Leon County judge is facing the possibility of being removed from the bench.

Florida's Supreme Court has asked Judge Judith Hawkins to show why removal isn't an appropriate sanction in her case.

A panel in January found Hawkins violated judicial standards by selling religious materials in the courthouse.

The panel also found she destroyed evidence and refused to cooperate with investigators.

That panel recommended a public reprimand, a three-month suspension with pay and a $17,000 fine.

The court now says Hawkins has to respond before August 14th to explain why she should keep her job.

A Leon County Judge found guilty of ethics violations won't challenge the recommended punishments against her.

Court records show Judge Judith Hawkins has decided not to contest the Judicial Qualifications Commission's January findings.

Those findings recommend a three month suspension, a $17,000 fine and a public reprimand.

Hawkins was found guilty of unethically selling religious materials, misconduct on the bench and then obstructing the investigation against her.

The Florida Supreme Court will ultimately make a final decision about punishment.

A local judge has until February 18th to explain why recommended punishments should not be imposed against her.

As Eyewitness News reported Tuesday night, Florida's Judicial Qualifications Commission has recommended a $17,000 fine, a 3 month suspension without pay and a public reprimand for Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins for official misconduct.

The Supreme Court has given Hawkins until February 18th to explain why that recommended punishment should not be granted.

The high court will ultimately make the final decision.

Judge Hawkins attorney Gerald Kogan says they're deciding what to do.

Judge Hawkins declined comment.

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.

Photo | Judge Hawkins on the witness stand

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