Judicial Watch • Judges Lobbied For Extravagant Courthouse

Judges Lobbied For Extravagant Courthouse

Judges Lobbied For Extravagant Courthouse

OCTOBER 14, 2010

Appellate court judges in Florida bullied legislators to build them an extravagant new courthouse with imported mahogany trim, granite countertops, private bathrooms and kitchens, 60-inch television screens and a whopping price tag of nearly $50 million.

A state audit reveals the scathing details of how First District Court of Appeal judges aggressively lobbied the legislature and other public officials to construct their lavish new abode, which has been dubbed Taj Mahal after the famous Indian monument made entirely of white marble.

The project has been plagued by scandal since its groundbreaking and has cost taxpayers millions more than necessary, according to a report issued this week by the Florida Department of Financial Services. The probe determined that the state agency responsible for overseeing the court project lost control, failed to seek bids as required by law and didn’t bother setting a cap on the price of the structure that is soon to be completed in Tallahassee, about six miles east of the state capitol.

As if that weren’t bad enough, auditors found that judges were unscrupulously involved in the process and skirted state law, rules or acceptable internal accounting practices in more than a dozen instances. The court’s chief judge (Paul Hawkes) was singled out for inappropriately lobbying the legislature for money and essentially taking over as the courthouse project’s personal contract manager.

The state’s judicial disciplinary board will review the report and consider the allegations against the judges. Florida’s governor, Charlie Crist, is busy campaigning for the U.S. Senate and has taken no action against the agency overseeing the courthouse fiasco (Department of Management Services), which supposedly reports to him


 

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