Hawkes' attorney proclaims judge's innocence in JQC case

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The attorney for First District Court of Appeals Judge Paul Hawkes issued a statement late Tuesday defending his client in the face of a scathing report from the Judicial Qualifications Commission, reports the News Service of Florida. “Judge Hawkes was at all times acting in what he firmly believed to be the best interests of the state, the judiciary and the court on which he serves,” Tallahassee lawyer Kenneth Sukhia said in a lengthy statement issued this evening. “We trust the public and the hearing panel will withhold judgment on these charges until we have an opportunity to present his side of the story.” Sukhia also pushed back on some of the charges in a notice of formal charges against Hawkes, who spearheaded the building of the “Taj Mahal” courthouse on the outskirts of Tallahassee. An accusation that Hawkes ordered the destruction of a filing cabinet filled with records related to the building of the courthouse was off-base, Sukhia said, because the records were old and getting rid of them was “an innocuous housekeeping effort long before any issues were raised over the construction of the new courthouse.” And the attorney brushed aside charges that Hawkes improperly ordered his law clerk to help Hawkes’ son craft a brief appealing a decision by the 1st DCA, noting the younger Hawkes was writing a brief for the Commission on Capital Cases — on which Judge Hawkes served at the time — and Hawkes was merely providing feedback. The statement does not specifically rebut charges that Hawkes often browbeat or mistreated employees of the court or the Department of Management Services, which was tasked with overseeing the construction of the Taj Mahal.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.