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Hawkes, under fire as judge of 'Taj Mahal, says he's resigning

1st District Court Judge Paul M. Hawkes is resigning from the court to avoid an ethics trial before the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Hawkes was charged in May with conduct unbecoming a judge, destroying public records and intimidating state employees involved in the construction of the court's new $50 million courthouse which many have dubbed a "Taj Mahal.''

The new courthouse has sparked outrage throughout the state as court employees have been laid off and budget cuts have forced other judges to postpone needed repairs to leaking roofs and malfunctioning air conditioners.

Hawkes did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the St. Petersburg Times obtained a copy of his letter of resignation submitted after months of negotiating with the commission in charge of disciplining judges.

The charges against Hawkes describe him as "unfit'' to be a judge and say he has damaged the integrity of the state's entire judicial system by his actions. The charges are likely to be dropped since he has agreed to leave the bench.

Hawkes has submitted a letter to Gov. Rick Scott saying he will leave the court on Jan. 4, 2012, just a few weeks before he was scheduled to face trial for conduct unbecoming a judge. He was appointed to the court by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002.

-- Lucy Morgan