Judge Judith Hawkins (pictured) has been removed from the bench by the Florida Supreme Court for selling religious periodicals from her office as part of her for-profit ministry, according to Tallahassee Democrat.
The Leon County judge, who reportedly used her office for personal gain, sold her Gaza Road Ministries books to lawyers, court clerks, and other courthouse personnel, according to the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC). She also promoted the sale of the products on her website that included photos of her in judicial robes and using her judicial assistant to promote the sale of ministry products. Finally, the justice was also found guilty of failing to comply with state tax laws when selling ministry products, misleading investigators, reading magazines during court proceedings, and not devoting her full-time for judicial duties, states the Tallahassee Democrat.
Despite the fact that Hawkins is being harshly dealt with, she has defended her innocence. “I knew another judge had sold his books at the courthouse and that other judges were identified by their positions on book covers,” she stated back in August at a disciplinary hearing held by Florida’s JQC.
Still, JQC has accused Hawkins of being dishonest about some of her testimony and purposely not entirely forthcoming during the investigation of the charges. The JQC also had some issues with comments Hawkins made about her faith. During Hawkins’ disciplinary hearing, she stated, “I had a moment when my faith instructed me, like many other litigants, to hold fast to my innocence and fight the good fight.”
In the JQC’s attempt to oust Hawkins from the bench, they surmised:
“No other statement in the whole of these proceedings so thoroughly demonstrates the wisdom of removal. There is no proof more convincing of Respondent’s unfitness to continue to sit in judgment upon any litigant. Intentional misrepresentations, destruction of evidence, and obstruction of justice do not constitute a “good fight” in a court of law. Respondent’s conduct before the investigative and hearing panels of the JQC was not designed to portray her innocence; it was calculated to hide her guilt.”
The JQC wanted Hawkins to be suspended for three months without pay, be fined $17,000, and be publicly reprimanded, but the court decision went way beyond the recommended punishment. The Supreme Court also decided that Hawkins was duplicitous during her disciplinary hearing, actions that are not acceptable for someone holding a judicial position.