Tuesday, October 17, 2017
The New York Court of Appeals accepted the removal of a non-attorney town court justice
Here, it was improper and a violation of petitioner's ethical duty for him to use his judicial position to interfere in the disposition of his daughter's traffic ticket. It was further improper for petitioner to tell the prosecutor that in his opinion and that of his colleagues the matter should be dismissed. By these actions petitioner did more than act as would any concerned parent, as he now maintains. Instead, he used his status to gain access to court personnel under circumstances not available to the general public, and, in his effort to persuade the prosecutor to drop the matter, gave his unsolicited judicial opinion. Furthermore, petitioner's imperious and discourteous manner towards the prosecutor on the case undermined "the integrity . . . of the judiciary." Even during the course of the Commission's proceedings petitioner exhibited no insight into the impropriety of his conduct. For example, he used paternalistic and infantalizing terms, referring to the prosecutor as "girl" and "kid," colloquialisms that were disrespectful and inappropriate.
Petitioner's actions during the Finch appeals, including his several ex parte communications to County Court advocating for dismissal of the matter and extolling the correctness of his decisionmaking, were also highly improper...
He persisted in this serious misconduct even after County Court informed petitioner that his comments were "troubling" and further instructed him as to the appellate process and petitioner's proper role.
Petitioner's misconduct is compounded by his failure to recognize these breaches of our ethical standards and the public trust. Before the Commission's referee, the Commission itself, and this Court he continued to minimize the import of his actions. Rather than acknowledge his obligations and the implications of his conduct, petitioner asserts that he should not be removed because he acted as a father in his daughter's case, not as a judge, and because his communications in the Finch appeals were in good faith and substantially correct. He focuses on what he perceives as a misunderstanding, stating that "[t]his experience has taught [him] how easily words and actions can be misinterpreted and to avoid any occasion or situation that could be misconstrued." Petitioner fails to accept that this is not a question of a misunderstanding. As a judge he had but one choice: to refrain from "lend[ing] the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of . . . others" (22 NYCRR 100.2 [C]), which included any communication on behalf of his daughter which could be "perceived as one backed by the power and prestige of judicial office"
The removal order of the Commission on Judicial Conduct is linked here. (Mike Frisch)