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    Embattled judge can go back to work

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 9, 2002

    CLEARWATER -- Pinellas-Pasco Judge Charles Cope will return to the bench Monday after a nearly a year of paid leave.

    The chairman of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission cleared Cope to return to work in the family law division.

    Cope's return comes days after a JQC panel recommended that Cope receive a public reprimand for his behavior while attending a judicial conference last year in Carmel, Calif. The state Suppreme Court will decide on what discipline Cope receives.

    Cope, 53, who acknowledges becoming intoxicated while in Carmel, was arrested after two women accused him of trying to get into their hotel room as they slept.

    One of the women said Cope earlier made unwanted sexual advances, though Cope said the pair had consensual foreplay.

    Cope, who earns about $130,000 a year, declined to comment. He still faces trial in California next month on five misdemeanors relating to the episode.

    "He'll come in and do his job," said Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge David Demers on Thursday.

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