Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon says he wants to give the Judicial Qualifications Commission a chance to deal with judges at the 1st District Court of Appeal before considering an impeachment request.
Rep. Franklin Sands, D-Plantation, asked the speaker to appoint a committee to consider the impeachment of Judges Paul M. Hawkes and Brad Thomas for the roles they played in the construction of a $50 million courthouse many have dubbed the "Taj Mahal.''Cannon said he does want to change laws that restrict access to JQC records by passing a proposed Constitutional amendment that would force the Commission to turn its records over to the House in judicial misconduct cases that might lead to impeachment.
Until the mid 1960s, impeachment was the only way the state could remove judges from office. But the protracted and costly impeachment and trial of Dade City Circuit Judge Richard Kelly led to the passage of a constitutional amendment creating the JQC to investigate judicial misconduct. The House can still impeach judges but only one has been removed from office by impeachment since the JQC was created in 1967. That was in 1978 in a case against Lake City Circuit Judge Samuel S. Smith after he was convicted in federal court of conspiracy to sell marijuana that had been seized by sheriff's deputies in Suwannee County.
The JQC is investigating the appellate court judges but has yet to take any public action. By law all judicial investigations remain secret unless formal charges are filed.