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Leon County judge accused of misconduct by using her office to promote for-profit religious business

Leon County Judge Judith W. Hawkins was charged Wednesday with misconduct, accused of using her office to promote a business that sells Bible study books, souvenirs and other products to attorneys and others who regularly appear in her courtroom.

The charges focus on Gaza Road Ministries, a business that sells books, stages seminars and conferences and sponsors mission trips to other countries, including Guyana, Romania, Mongolia, Mexico and Brazil.

Her sermons have included "Your Day in Court,'' emphasizing that "God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.'' In October she appeared at a seminar discussing, "When Life Gives You Lemons," turning obstacles into opportunities.

Florida's Judicial Qualifications Commission alleges that these activities and the use of a judicial assistant who has helped promote the ministry take time away from judicial duties for a profit-making business.

Story by Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent Lucy Morgan here.