February 19, 2008
"Mean-Spirited, Insensitive Jurist"
The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct removed from office a county family court judge for violating the fundamental rights of litigants in five matters. Five litigants were sentenced to jail terms, and at least three served unlawful jail terms of several months, as a result of the misconduct. The commission concludes:
"The record in its totality shows a judge who not only callously disregarded the rights of litigants, but who continued to defend his practices after three writs of habeas corpus were issued, who changed his procedures only reluctantly after sharp criticism by the Appellate Division, and whose conduct still suggests an insensitivity to the importance of ensuring that every litigant is accorded all the protections provided by law. Significantly, respondent’s press release in response to the appellate decision in Foote declared that in the future he will simply issue written confirmations of a support magistrate’s findings rather than provide an opportunity for the parties to personally appear, as he had previously done. It was at such appearances that Ms. Foote and Ms. Smith had asked for assigned counsel. Respondent’s press release also stated that while he had changed his policy on assigning counsel in accordance with the appellate criticism, his new policy will be more costly and will also mean that 'parties seeking assigned lawyers will be less encouraged to be responsible.' That language is consistent with the mean-spirited, insensitive jurist depicted in this record who is more concerned with fiscal matters than with protecting the basic rights of every litigant." (Mike Frisch)
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