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Judge: Rubio isn’t my tool in inquiry

Though newly released emails (as well as friends and family) tie him closely to House Speaker Marco Rubio’s office, First District Court of Appeal Judge Paul Hawkes said he had nothing to do with the Miami lawmaker’s decision to open an inquiry into fellow 1st DCA Judge Charles Kahn.

Hawkes’ son, House Counsel Jeremiah Hawkes, emailed a draft of Rubio’s letter Dec. 4 requesting that the Judicial Qualifications Commission share its investigative files on Kahn, who is the target of an as-yet private complaint. The email was sent to an assistant of Rubio’s staff chief, Richard Corcoran, Paul Hawkes’ former legislative aide and consulting partner.

“There’s this perception out there that I’m Chuck’s nemesis and I’m not,” Hawkes said. “I know Chuck. I like Chuck. He’s one of the more conservative members on the court.”

Rubio has said that, as leader of the legislative chamber in charge of impeaching unfit judges, he launched the “fact-finding mission” after reading a newspaper article concerning Kahn, who stepped down as chief justice of the capitol-based court in October. The last speaker to make a request of information on a judge: Allan Bense on Feb. 22, 2005, the speaker’s office said.

Kahn stepped down as chief justice in October after a meeting that fellow Judge Edward Barfield called to discuss "concerns within the court over leadership and personal relationships within the court," according to an email.

Though the phrase “relationships within the court” could likely point to a some type of problematic office matter, some have speculated that Kahn’s troubles stem from the time his fellow justices overruled him when he sought to throw out the pot-of-money bribery conviction of former Senate President W.D. Childers.

A fellow Escambia County commissioner and witness against Childers apparently recanted testimony but then committed suicide by drinking antifreeze. Kahn is a former law partner with Childers buddy, tobacco-suing trial lawyer Fred Levin.

About the time Kahn stepped down from the bench, Judge Hawkes had a few email exchanges with House attorney Don Rubottom concerning general judicial matters on Nov. 14, an article mentioning judges and recusal cases. Another 1st DCA judge, Brad Thomas, is also in the loop on at least one email exchange. None mentions Kahn.

A few other emails concerning the court were sent by House Judicial staffer David de la Paz, who’s seeking a spot on the bench. De la Paz, a finalist after his interview with the Judicial Nominating Commission, thanked Corcoran in a Dec. 1 email “for your help with the commission members.”