March 5, 2008
Judge Not Thy Sister-In-Law
The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct censured a town court justice who failed to make timely deposits of court funds, failed to report and remit funds in a timely manner and failed to keep a complete and accurate cashbook. As to safekeeping of the funds:
"In all cases, respondent stored the undeposited funds in her locked briefcase, which she kept in her courtroom, under her bench. The courtroom is routinely locked when not in use but does on occasion serve as a community center used by a number of groups at times when neither respondent nor court staff were present. Respondent understands the need to safeguard undeposited court funds in a more secure manner and affirms that she now does so by locking them in her briefcase, which she keeps with her until the following day, when she deposits the funds in the bank."
Finally, the justice adjudicated a seat belt violation case in which the accused was her sister-in-law. The defendant's explanation: she had taken the seat belt off to retrieve a spilled coffee cup. The justice agreed that recusal was appropriate but "genuinely considered the matter to be of such minor import that she did not wish to transfer the ticket to another court and burden another judge with it." The justice found the sister-in-law guilty and ordered only the mandatory State surcharge without a fine. This apparently was consistent with the justice's practice in such cases. (Mike Frisch)
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