Friday, November 25, 2005

Charles Cope

In late January 2004 Pasco-Pinellas Circuit judge Judge Charles W. Cope abruptly resigned during an investigation of him by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. House Speaker Johnnie Byrd had stated that Judge Cope was, "headed for impeachment by the Florida Legislature before his abrupt resignation . . ." Judge Cope has admitted that in 2001, while he was attending a judicial conference in Carmel, California, he tried to break into the hotel room of two women. He admits he was drunk. (In 2001 Broward Circuit Judge Joyce Julian was arrested after she was found by police drunk, lying in a public area of a hotel wearing only a shirt while attending a judicial conference at the Amelia Island Plantation resort in northeast Florida.)

Later as he was facing a reprimand from the Florida State Supreme Court, Judge Cope sued the women for malicious prosecution. A 2003 study by the the Saint Petersburg Times revealed that since returning to work last August after a one-year paid leave of absence, Cope's work calendar showed no work scheduled either in his office or the courtroom for 51 days. Notwithstanding, then Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Susan Schaeffer stated that "He has one of the best work ethics of all our circuit judges." In 2002 the former chief judge of the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court and a retired appelate judge, David Patterson, was found in his Treasure Island home by his estranged wife, dead of a self inflicted gunshot wound. His wife had gotten a court order to keep him away after he had threatened her. He had been hospitalized under the Baker Act. He had been arrested for a DUI.

State Rep. Jeffrey Kottkamp, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had instructed his staff to start putting together investigative material in preparation for presenting an impeachment hearing on Judge Cope. In 1996 Judge Cope was arrested for a DUI but that charge was dropped. The state had been forced to deal with Judge Cope after the November 2003 issue of the Reader's Digest, an internationally read magazine, gave one of three of its annual Broken Gavel awards for the worst judges in America to Judge Charles W. Cope. The headline for the Broken Gavel Award was "Sleazy, corrupt or abusive." In 2000 the Digest named Hernando County Judge Peyton Hyslop to the worst judge list.

Jeb Bush replaced Cope with county judge Amy Williams.


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