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Florida Judge Faces Criminal Charges In California

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    J.A.I.L. News Journal _____________________________________________________ Los Angeles, California August 12,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 12, 2002
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      J.A.I.L. News Journal
      _____________________________________________________
      Los Angeles, California                                               August 12, 2002
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      Florida Judge Faces Criminal Charges In California

      CLEARWATER - A judge on paid leave while awaiting trial on misdemeanor criminal charges will return to work Monday with the blessing of state judicial regulators.

      Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Charles Cope is awaiting trial in California on charges including petty theft, battery and trespassing.

      But the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission this week concluded Cope should stay in office with a public reprimand after finding him guilty of public intoxication and inappropriate conduct of an intimate nature while attending a conference April 12 in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

      JQC Chairman James Wolf on Thursday decided there is ``no reason [Cope] should not be back at work,'' said Chief Circuit Judge David Demers, who oversees judicial assignments in Pasco and Pinellas counties.

      Cope did not respond to a call for comment.

      During his recent JQC trial, Cope testified he was ordered to take a leave of absence from his $130,000-a-year job after news of his California arrest became public in July 2001. Cope did not say who ordered him to take paid leave.

      After the trial in June, a JQC hearing panel acquitted Cope of administrative charges alleging he stole a hotel room key from two women, tried to enter their room while they were sleeping and made a false statement to a Carmel police officer who arrested him after the alleged break-in attempt.

      The panel also said Cope did not violate state laws or judicial canons when he failed to disclose his arrest to the JQC.

      The panel recommended that the state Supreme Court publicly reprimand Cope for being drunk in public and for either attempting or having intimate contact with one of the women on a Carmel beach.

      The court, which has the option to remove Cope from the bench, is not expected to announce a punishment for several months.

      Cope's California trial on five misdemeanor charges has been postponed repeatedly and is now scheduled to begin Sept. 30.

      State legislative leaders, who last year threatened to impeach Cope, could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

      Cope's absence has been a strain on the circuit's finances, Demers said. His family court caseload has been covered by a succession of Pinellas County judges, who in turn were replaced by retired judges who are paid by the day, the chief judge said.

      Demers said he could not immediately tally the expense of covering Cope's caseload.

      After Cope was arrested on a drunken-driving charge during a 1996 judicial conference in Naples, the criminal charge was dropped and the JQC took no action.

      Reporter David Sommer can be reached at (727) 799-7413.

      Sherree Lowe. JAIL4judges/Florida


      Were Cope not a judge, he would facing many years in prison on sundry felony charges. But since he is a judge, such charges as drunk-driving, forcible entry, drunkenness in public, lying to police during his arrest are dropped, while he gets not only paid leave of absence, but also his job back with a slap on the back of the hand.

      Who says there is "equal justice" under the law? Evidence shows that judges are more "equal" than "mere" citizens.

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