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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Feb. 2, 201612:00 PM EST

Manatee circuit judge in hot water over free baseball tickets

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A Manatee County circuit judge could be disciplined for requesting tickets to Tampa Bay Rays games from a law firm that had a pending case before him.

An investigative panel of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission on Monday filed what is known as a “notice of formal charges” against Circuit Judge John Lakin, according to the Florida Supreme Court website.

The notice said Lakin in June presided over a personal injury case in which a client of the Kallins, Delgado & Little law firm sued Walmart.

A jury on June 25 found that Walmart was not liable, and a day later Lakin instructed his judicial assistant to contact Kallins, Delgado & Little to request tickets for a Rays game against the Boston Red Sox, according to the document.

Lakin used two tickets and did not advise Walmart’s attorneys, despite the case not being final.

On Aug. 21, the document said, Lakin heard a motion for a new trial in the case.

Four days later, the document said, Lakin again requested and received tickets from the law firm

On Aug. 26, Lakin issued an order setting aside the jury’s verdict and granting a new trial, according to the document.

“Your extraordinary action allowed the plaintiff a second opportunity to seek damages from Walmart,” the investigative panel wrote in addressing Lakin. “You have acknowledged that during your tenure on the bench you have never before overturned a jury verdict.”

The document also indicates Lakin requested tickets from the law firm in September and October.

In the notice, the investigative panel alleged that Lakin’s actions “constitute inappropriate conduct demonstrating a present unfitness to serve.”

The Supreme Court has ultimate say about disciplinary actions involving judges.

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