We now know that, as a judge, you can't be a comedian. But how about leading a religious ministry? Does it make a difference if that ministry is for-profit and judicial resources are used to promote the ministry's products?
Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins, a Florida judge making $140,000 annually, is also the founder of Gaza Road Ministries, an organization that, according to its website, seeks "timeless Bible truths for today's applications." Those truths are expounded in a series of products, available online, and for a short time, from Judge Hawkins at the courthouse.
The Alleged (Mis?) Conduct
Other than accusations that Judge Hawkins was inattentive, and would be reading during court hearings, most of the misconduct allegations are directly related to her side business, reports WCTV.
The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission alleges that Judge Hawkins used her chambers, court email address, staff, and computers, to run her side business, that she sold the religious materials in the courthouse (including to attorneys that appeared before her), that she was less than forthcoming during the investigation, and that the business distracted her from her day-to-day duties, including instances where she cleared her judicial calendar (necessitating additional subpoenas and judicial resources) in order to give paid lectures through her ministry.
Judge Hawkins, in court this week, admitted to selling religious books to "friends" in the courthouse, specifically those who she would invite to her birthday party, reports the Tallahassee Democrat. She is represented by former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald Kogan, who noted that Judge Hawkins had been named an outstanding county judge by her peers.
The hearing is ongoing throughout this week, with Judge Hawkins taking the stand yesterday. The punishment, should the charges be substantiated, could include removal from the bench.