Thursday, December 20, 2007

Injudicious Behavior

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct determined that removal was the appropriate disposition in a matter where a Town Court Justice ( one Dennis LaBombard) engaged in misconduct by presiding over two cases where his step-grandchildren were defendants, contacted another judge in a case involving a step-grandchild, and asserted his judicial office to advance his private interests after a car accident."

The commission reasoned:

"Respondent engaged in a series of willful, egregious misdeeds, both on and off the bench, in which he abused the power and prestige of his judicial office for his own personal advantage and for the benefit of others.  The record establishes that he presided over the cases of his relatives and a former co-worker’s son, changed his bail decision after an ex parte call from the defendant’s mother, initiated an ex parte communication with the judge handling his relative’s case, and asserted his judicial office after a car accident.  Such 'a pattern of injudicious behavior and inappropriate actions…cannot be viewed as acceptable conduct by one holding judicial office' ...

   

Notwithstanding this well-established ethical prohibition, respondent presided over the cases of two step-grandchildren, granting the defendants an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.  Not even the presence in the courtroom of his daughter and son-in-law, the defendants’ stepmother and father, prompted him to recognize the manifest impropriety of handling his relatives’ cases.  In addition, the fact that respondent eliminated the community service requirement effectively delivered a more favorable disposition to his family members than that agreed to by the district attorney and circumvented the procedural requirements applicable to them...

Respondent’s conduct was especially pernicious since he used his judicial influence not only to vouch for his relative, but to denigrate other individuals involved in the underlying incident.  During his ten-minute conversation with the judge who was handling the case, respondent made additional statements that conveyed to the judge the clear impression that the other individuals were more culpable than respondent’s relative.  This was a reprehensible abuse of his judicial clout...

Finally, during the same period, respondent abused the prestige of judicial office when he repeatedly identified himself as a judge after a minor traffic accident.  The record establishes that he asserted his judicial status in the context of blaming the other motorist, and not simply, as respondent has claimed, to assure the other motorist that she would be able to reach him.  Injecting his judicial status into the dispute was unnecessary and unseemly.  Respondent’s repeated references to the fact that he is a judge were a blatant misuse of his judicial prestige, demonstrating that he was using his judicial status for his personal advantage..." (Mike Frisch)

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