UPDATE (December 26, 2012 - 3:19 P.M.)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.(WTXL) --Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins is responding to allegations that she used her judicial office to promote her for-profit ministry.
Charges were filed against Judge Hawkins on December 5. The charges say that Judge Hawkins had a website for her ministry, GazaRoadMinistries.com. On that it site, it contains souvenirs and products that Hawkins has for sale, along with pictures of Hawkins in her judicial robes. In addition, she's accused of selling books in the office. The charges also contain allegations that she uses resources from her office and time from her judicial duties to further the reach of the ministry.
Hawkins writes in a brief that she agrees, at least partially, with three of the six allegations. However, she argues that the business did not interfere with any of her judicial duties, and there are no rules against judges creating for-profit enterprises. She adds that her involvement in her ministry shouldn't limit her First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and assembly.
The brief was filed on December 26, 2012. To read the full response, download the attached document, or click here.
UPDATE (December 6, 2012 - 11:40 A.M.)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) --The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission has filed a complaint with the Florida Supreme Court against Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins.
The panel contends Hawkins used her job as a judge to promote a side business.
(Formal complaint attached below)
"A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others," the charges state.
The complaint cites a company called Gaza Road Ministries and their website which sells "products" and "souvenirs". "On the "order page" you list the products you have for sale that are linked to the "PayPal" network for payment into your account," the complaint states.
It goes onto say that Judge Hawkins is seen on the website, in photos, wearing judicial robes while sitting on the Leon County Court bench.
The complaint charges Hawkins with profiting $13,518.00 on the business, in part, by selling "books, study guides, and other publications in the Leon County courthouse, in the parking garage of the courthouse, in your Chambers, and even in the Courtroom where you preside. The purchasers of your books and other publications include attorneys who regularly appear before you and court staff. There is a disparity in authority between your position and those to whom you have sold within the courthouse."
The final paragraph of the charge complaint states: "Your involvement with Gaza Road Ministries has caused you to devote less than your full time and full attention to your judicial duties. You have explained that as a judge, you and your Judicial Assistant have a great deal of free time, so you feel free to use your judicial chambers and out-of-court free time to conduct your for profit private business, and schedule business appointments. You often take time away from your judicial duties to promote your business to the detriment of the prompt and efficient administration of justice."
Judge Hawkins will have 20 days to formally respond to the complaint.
Hawkins' Judicial Assistant released a statement Thursday saying "On the advice of her attorney, Judge Hawkins is not at liberty to discuss this ongoing JOC investigation at this time."