Manatee Co. judge faces discipline after accepting gifts

- A top-rated Manatee County judge faces criticism for taking a gift - Rays baseball tickets - from an attorney involved with a case over which he was presiding. 

Now, Judge John Lakin faces being removed from the bench while the Florida Supreme Court decides his fate.

Sarasota defense attorney Derek Byrd said judges need to be held to a higher standard. 

"It is critically important the public have confidence in the judiciary. Confidence it is a fair process. Confidence that it is a fair process. Confidence that judges aren't biased or prejudiced," he said.

The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission filed a complaint with the State Supreme Court, finding probable cause he violated the Judicial Code of Ethics.

They said he took tickets to a Tampa Bay Rays game from a law firm whose case he was overseeing.

"Knowing his background, he is just not the type of guy, I think, that would blow his whole career over some baseball tickets," Byrd said.

The timing of the ticket gift is the issue at hand.

Documents show, one day after the verdict came down from a four-day jury trial, Judge Lakin requested tickets to a Rays game from Kallins, Delgado and Little.

The firm sent five tickets, but Lakin only used two and threw three away. Over the course of several more days, Lakin took baseball tickets three more times from the safe firm. 

"He is really considered a very ethical, thoughtful judge. That is kind of the shame of all of this. I would hope that he would not lose his job or his career over what was clearly a mistake, but that to me would not be a punishment fitting of the crime," Byrd explained.

Judge Lakin's attorney said he plans to file a response to the Judicial Qualifications Commission charges. 

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