Thursday, August 23, 2012

Delayed Justice Or Pound Of Flesh?

The New York Commission on Judicial Conduct has ordered the removal from office of a family court judge as a result of charges that he had "engaged in a sexual act with his five-year-old niece" in 1972.

The incident took place when the judge was 25 years old and prior to his admission to the Bar.

He "admitted that in or about 1972 his five-year-old niece touched his hand while he was stroking his penis; denied that his actions violated the cited ethical rules, and as an affirmative defense, alleged that the Commission lacks jurisdiction because the incident predated his service as a judge by approximately thirteen years."

There is a concurring/dissenting opinion that notes that the judge resigned from office when notified of the complaint. The opinion further notes that the victim "still emotionally troubled by the horrible incident and seeking a measure of justice," approached the prosecutor's office and gained an admission from the judge while wearing a wire.

The matter then was referred to the Commission, which proceeded notwithstanding the judge's prompt resignation:

I am not unmindful that, particularly in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals at Penn State and Syracuse University [which is in the county where the judge sat], no public official or body wants to appear to have shown any leniency whatever to an alleged sex offender - even where the offending act occured so much earlier...

...we should want to encourage judges, directly confronted with the error of their ways, as here, to quickly and unqualifiedly resign in the face of egregious allegations of wrongdoing of which they are clearly guilty. We should not, except in an appropriate case which this is not, require a post-resignation removal simply for a disciplinary authority to gain a very public pound of flesh, fearful of criticism for supposed leniency if it does not demand removal.

Stated most directly - the horrific conduct of respondent, who has now descended from the bench leaving his robes and gavel behind, occurred 40 years ago. It is now time to close this book.

The order of removal called the conduct "abhorrent and not attenuated by the passage of time." has this report. (Mike Frisch)

Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink

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