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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lucy Morgan in St. Pete Times: Why can't anyone remember how a $50-million courthouse now called the 'Taj Mahal' stayed off the radar and got okayed?

Judges of Florida's First District Court of Appeal wanted a courthouse in Tallahassee with “wow factor.’’ They built a $48.8 million copy of the Michigan Supreme Court building that opens Monday at 2000 Drayton Drive, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0950.

See Michigan courthouse photo at:

See old FL courthouse photo at: http://www.1dca.org/
According to the photo on the website, there are about 15 judges based there, the
Chief Judge of whom is Robert T. Benton II.


St. Petersburg Times

Taj Mahal timeline: How a $50 million courthouse got in the budget but stayed off the radar

By Lucy Morgan, Times Senior Correspondent
December 19, 2010

In an extraordinary case of collective amnesia, nobody can quite remember just how it happened. As the country headed toward the worst recession in years, the Florida Legislature handed $50 million to judges to build a courthouse now branded the Taj Mahal. The building that opens to the public Monday began as a request to spend up to $20,000 to determine if a floor could be added to the existing courthouse.

Over the next four years — often in secret — it turned into a building fit for royalty and a multimillion dollar debt taxpayers will pay down for 30 years.
The story of the Taj Mahal is told in documents — e-mail, minutes of court conferences and building committee meetings, and a trove of other records. It's remarkable for the over-the-top details — like the soundproofing in the judge's individual bathrooms — but mostly it's the way things get done in Tallahassee.

Read the rest of this compelling article, complete with amazing photos, at http://www.tampabay.com/news/perspective/taj-mahal-timeline-how-a-50-million-courthouse-got-in-the-budget-but/1140773

St. Petersburg Times
Appeals judges slip into controversial new $50 million courthouse
By Lucy Morgan, Times Senior Correspondent

Saturday, December 18, 2010


For some, the moving vans outside the 1st District Court of Appeal were reminiscent of the night the Colts moved out of Baltimore in the middle of the night on their way to Indianapolis.

On Friday, Gov. Charlie Crist said the judges at the controversial court should have waited until legislators had a chance to review the process that led to the construction of a new courthouse filled with African mahogany, granite desk and countertops and other luxuries not traditionally found in state buildings.

Sen. Mike Fasano, head of the senate committee on court funding, wrote a letter to Crist and other state officials Thursday trying to halt the move. It was too late. Shortly after dark Thursday the first moving van was loaded and ready to leave the downtown courthouse where the 1st DCA has been since 1981.
It was too late.

Read the rest of the article at:

I first read the articles online on Saturday afternoon and then quickly emailed them around the state to various civic activists and pols I know because it's the best account I've seen yet of how this financial outrage came to be.

Lucy Morgan

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