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Appeals court ethics smackdown

The ongoing ethics battle in the First District Court of Appeal went before Broward County Circuit Judge Paul Backman on Thursday morning, where both sides in the highly unusual case involving First DCA Judge Michael Allen and DCA Judge Charles Kahn argued whether or not the complaint filed against Allen should be dropped.

For those not closely following this twisted tale: Allen lambasted Kahn in an June 2006 opinion that denied overturning W.D. Childers' conviction for bribery. Allen raised questions about whether or not Kahn wanted to overturn the conviction because Kahn was once a law partner with Fred Levin, who was defending his long-term ally Childers in the bribery case. But Allen himself now is fighting ethics charges that what he did was improper.

On Thursday, Bruce Rogow forcefully argued that the charges against Allen should be dropped because there is no proof that his opinion in the Childers case is enough to show that Allen is unfit to be a judge. Rogow said any charge against a sitting judge must have evidence that the actions warrant removal from the bench, even if that ultimately is not the penalty. "The mere publication of that opinion does not demonstrate a present unfitness to hold office,'' said Rogow.

But Wally Pope, the lawyer representing the Judicial Qualifications Commission disagreed, saying that Allen's criticism of Kahn undermined the judiciary overall and suggested that Kahn was corrupt. Pope pointed out that no one had previously asked Kahn to recuse himself in the case and that Judge Allen was relying on information from newspaper articles about Childers and Levin that could not be verified.

After listening to both sides, Judge Backman said he would issue a written order on the motion to dismiss the charges "as quickly as possible."

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