The Florida Supreme Court has made the decision to suspend Broward County Circuit Judge Vegina Hawkins without pay after she was seen on surveillance video grabbing a courthouse employee by the neck and shaking them.
The decision was made Friday by the supreme court for the incident which occurred on June 11th.
According to the report, Judge Hawkins became upset with the employee for not bringing her, her papers before a hearing that was scheduled later that day.
The Investigative Panel of the Commission began investigating the incident after Hawkins brought it to their attention once she found out a complaint had been filed against her.
Hawkins told investigators that she did not put her hands on the employee but rather invaded his personal space. After she was shown the video of the incident she admitted to briefly touching the individual but said she felt like she had a friendly relationship with the individual and she did not mean any harm by it.
The commission, however, did not believe Hawkins actions towards the employee were in a manner of play:
“The Investigative Panel of the Commission does not find Judge Hawkins’ testimony that she was ‘calm’ and ‘not at all angry’ credible, and having reviewed the statements and video evidence, the Panel does not believe that her actions were in ‘jest,'” the recommendation for suspension said. “The Panel is further concerned by Judge Hawkins inability to understand that even in jest, her conduct was wholly inappropriate.”
Attorney David Bogenschutz who represented Hawkins wrote back stating that his client took full responsibility for her actions during her hearing and that he believed the punishment was too harsh considering the judges “spotless” background:
“She has an unblemished career as a prosecutor and private practitioner, as well as a police officer,” he wrote. “She has been a circuit court judge, at the time of this incident, for approximately six months, beginning what, for all intents and purposes, appears to be an outstanding career on the Circuit Court of the 17th Judicial Circuit.”
The supreme court has since reached a decision to suspend the judge without pay.
Read formal charges here.