Supreme Court chief judge orders scrutiny of future district courthousesby Dara Kam | January 17th, 2011
Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady ordered that all future district court building construction must be scrutinized by the state courts administrator in response to a lavish Tallahassee appeals court dubbed the “Taj Mahal.”
Canady issued the order this morning after state Sen. Mike Fasano pilloried First District Court of Appeals judges Paul Hawkes and Brad Thomas for pushing a new courthouse, accusing them of “the epitome of arrogance.
Thomas and Hawkes apologized to Fasano, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee, for their roles in the construction of the $48.8 million courthouse in Tallahassee that is estimated to ultimately cost taxpayers $70 million because of bond payments. Florida has been in a budget crisis for the past three years and lawmakers are now grappling with an anticipated $3.62 billion spending gap.
In November, Hawkes was forced to resign as chief judge but he remains on the court.
The courthouse features such opulent amenities as private soundproof bathrooms and kitchens for each of the 15 judges, miles of African mahogany trim, granite counter and desk tops, etched glass windows, a glass dome and massive columns inside and out.
“To the extent that any expenditures were made on this building and any construction done that exceeds the legislative intent and has offended you and this committee then I sincerely apologize,” Thomas told Fasano at a committee hearing last week.
“Don’t apologize just to us, judge,” Fasano, R-New Port Richey, snapped. “Apologize to every taxpayer in the state.”
Canady today ordered that the state courts administrator must approve any appellate court projects in the future.
“Courthouses should be dignified, durable and functional,” Canady wrote in a statement. “They should not be grandiose, monumental and luxurious.”