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Misdeeds of other judges off limits?
A panel wants to block some testimony in the trial of a judge accused of unbecoming conduct.
By LUCY MORGAN, Times Senior Correspondent
Published February 7, 2008
TALLAHASSEE - Lawyers for the Judicial Qualifications Commission want to block testimony about the misdeeds of other judges when it puts 1st District Court of Appeal Judge Michael E. Allen on trial for conduct unbecoming a judge.
Allen faces charges because he questioned the conduct of fellow Judge Charles Kahn Jr. in a June 2006 opinion upholding the conviction and prison sentence of former Sen. W.D. Childers.
Allen, in his written opinion, was responding to Kahn's accusation that the court was acting illegally. Allen said he was concerned about the public's perception of the court, on which he has served since 1990. He questioned Kahn's attempt to overturn the criminal charges against Childers, noting that Kahn was a former law partner of Fred Levin's, a Pensacola lawyer and longtime Childers friend.
Last week, as several judges of the court were questioned in preparation for a trial next month, Kahn was described as a mentally unstable judge who has frequent temper tantrums and had extramarital affairs with two employees of the state court system.
"Whether Judge Kahn is 'Peck's bad boy' is simply irrelevant to the question of Judge Allen's animosity," JQC lawyer F. Wallace Pope said in a motion filed Wednesday.
The motion asks that the panel that will hear Allen's trial, scheduled March 10, not allow the testimony.
The panel can recommend that the Florida Supreme Court reprimand or remove him from office.
The JQC contends that Allen is guilty of "character assassination" of a colleague in a situation where there is no evidence of corruption.
Bruce Rogow, the attorney representing Allen, said the JQC is "hoisted on its own petard of its own misguided effort to punish the judge who dared to criticize a judge whose own colleagues said that he exhibited dishonesty, duplicity and untrustworthiness."
Allen was concerned about the integrity of the court, Rogow said, and it is the JQC that has put Kahn's character at issue by bringing the charges.
Thirteen of the 15 judges on the court filed a formal complaint against Kahn for having affairs with court clerks, but the JQC voted against bringing charges against Kahn. Instead, the JQC decided to pursue the complaint against Allen, which was filed by Fred Levin's son, Martin.