suspended words

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The Florida Supreme Court suspended a Broward County judge without pay Friday after she was accused of grabbing an employee’s neck for failing to prepare her afternoon docket at the expected time.

The court suspended Judge Vegina “Gina” Hawkins while her disciplinary case is pending, report the Miami Herald and the Broward Palm Beach New Times. The June 11 incident was captured on a courthouse security camera, according to the disciplinary complaint filed Thursday by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission. The Daily Business Review and Law360 have coverage of the allegations.

According to the complaint, Hawkins interrupted the employee’s work in another courtroom and summoned him into a hallway. As he walked through the door, Hawkins placed her hands on the employee’s neck and shook him, the complaint says.

Hawkins reported the incident to the commission in a letter that said she “jokingly reached toward” the employee as if to grab him. “I was in no way upset, and at no time did I yell at him,” Hawkins said.

“While it is my contention that I never actually touched him, it is clear that I invaded his personal space, for which I am truly sorry,” Hawkins wrote.

The commission had recommended the suspension, citing “the exceptionally inappropriate physical contact” and her contention that she never touched the employee. The statement “is clearly refuted by the security video,” the commission said.

During questioning in a July 12 hearing before an investigative panel, Hawkins finally acknowledged that she touched and shook the employee, according to the commission. Hawkins attributed her earlier assertion that she didn’t touch the employee to the grainy quality of the video and the fact that she was crying when she watched it.