Florida judges are in the grips of an expanding scandal involving accusations of perjury, physical threats, and ethical violations. One judge, District Court Judge Michael E. Allen, is facing possible perjury charges and other, Judge Charles J. Kahn is accused of serious breaches of ethics as well as being unstable and injudicious in his personal conduct.
The current controversy began with an opinion related to the Florida tobacco litigation. Florida is one of those states long criticized for giving attorneys windfall profits of millions of dollars for their role in the settlement with the tobacco industry. (For full disclosure, I have been one of those critics). The specific case was a criminal appeal by former Sen. President W.D. Childers, who is accused of a wide array of corruption, including work with Pensacola lawyer Fred Levin, a former law partner of Kahn’s. Kahn should never have sat on the case, but he not only did not recuse himself but he authored a panel decision reversing the conviction. The full court then heard the case and reversed Kahn and the panel — upholding the conviction. They voted 10-4.
Allen, however, wrote a concurring opinion taking Kahn to task for his involvement. He wrote: “We should never perform our responsibilities in a manner that would cause the public to question the impartiality of our decisions.” It is a valid point, but some objected to the manner of the criticism. Kahn’s son pressed charges and Allen was pulled before the Commission, where he denied that he was motivated by personal animus. That is the basis for the perjury charge. Various people testified that Allen had shown such animus over the years toward Kahn. However, it is surprising to see a perjury charge based on such a fluid term as animus.
In the meantime, former Chief Judge Charles J. Kahn Jr. has been accused of bizarre behavior that ranged from being “volatile” to “duplicitous” to “schizoid.” The court marshall given put a lock on the robing room and extra security for judges in fear that Kahn (who sough a gun permit) might be violent. Another judge said that Kahn told him to “get out of my f—— office” when he told him that he would not support his friend in the tobacco case. He is also accused of having an affair with a court employee. Thirteen of the other judges on the appeals court filed a complaint against Kahn over his affairs with court employees.
Chief Judge Edwin B. Browning Jr. said that when he confronted Kahn about the affairs, Kahn lied to them.
It does seem odd that it is Allen who is facing the current charges and that Kahn is still on the court. Kahn appears to be not be facially unethical but unhinged.