June 25, 2009
When Is Judicial Delay Sanctionable?
A very interesting decision of the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct addresses the question of when delay in issuing decisions by a judicial officer constitutes a basis for discipline. The judge had transitioned from part-time with a law practice to a full-time position. It was charged that he had "[f]ailed to render decisions in a timely manner in 47 cases notwithstanding that he had previously been issued a letter of dismissal and caution for delayed decisions." The judge had defended that a lack of resources had caused the delays, which contravened mandated time requiorements.
There are thoughtful concurring and dissenting opinions on the question of whether any or lesser discipline should be imposed. From the concurrence:
The debate between the dissent and the Commission's determination focuses on the niceties of the almost 20 year-old Greenfield decision and engages in an exhaustive comparison between the facts underlying Judge Gilpatric's misconduct and Justice Greenfield's excused neglect. Both analyses miss the forest for the trees. The issue posed by this case is whether the Court of Appeals will adhere to its Greenfield proclamation that even longer delays of sub judice decsions, absent defiance of administrative directives or nondisclosure of pending delayed cases, are NOT judicial misconduct. It seems clear that Greenfield's holding is too broad and not in the service of the canon of judicial ethics that requires every judge to "dispose of all judicial matters promptly, efficiently and fairly."
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