Wednesday, July 16, 2014
The Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board has filed a lengthy complaint alleging misconduct by an Erie County Court of Common Pleas judge.
The complaint notes that the judge "engage[s] in many regional, national, and international educational, charitable and civic endeavors" but
In stark contrast to her record of non-judicial service, the judicial administrative authorities in Erie County have received numerous and consistent complaints regarding [the judge's] demeanor and concomitant behavior both on the bench and off the bench.
On bench, the judge is alleged to have been "impatient, intemperate, belittling, overly-critical, or disrespectful" to court employees, lawyers, litigants and witnesses.
Off bench, same allegations as to treatment of her personal staff.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the judge was first elected to office in 1989. Her attorney is quoted stating that the charges are "devoid of merit." (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court
The Ohio Supreme Court today publicly reprimanded a judge serving on the Akron Municipal Court for her conduct related to the 2012 arrest of a lawyer who practiced in her courtroom.
In the 5-2 decision, the court determined that Judge Joy Malek Oldfield violated two judicial conduct rules and one professional conduct rule, but rejected an argument from the Disciplinary Counsel that Oldfield violated an additional judicial conduct rule. The Disciplinary Counsel filed the complaint charging the judge.
In February 2012, Oldfield and her husband attended an evening event that lasted into the next morning. Oldfield’s husband asked Catherine Loya, the public defender assigned to the judge’s courtroom, to drive Oldfield home, and he left.
The judge and Loya left the party sometime after 1 a.m. and stopped in a shopping center parking lot. A police officer pulled up and asked them for identification. Two more police officers arrived soon after. When Loya refused to do field sobriety tests, she was arrested and taken to the police station. Oldfield asked one of the officers to take her to the station to be with Loya. During some of her interactions with the police, Oldfield mentioned that she was a judge.
At the station, Loya’s driving privileges were immediately suspended. An officer then drove both Loya and Oldfield to the judge’s house. Loya stayed at Oldfield’s house for three nights until she was permitted to drive again. For the next two weeks, Oldfield presided over 53 cases in which Loya represented clients.
In today’s majority opinion, Justice Sharon L. Kennedy wrote that the court agreed with the state disciplinary board that the judge violated two judicial rules stating that judges must act in ways that promote public confidence in the judiciary, avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety, and disqualify themselves from proceedings in which their impartiality might be questioned. The court also determined that the judge engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Despite an objection from the Disciplinary Counsel, the court also agreed with the board’s recommendation to dismiss the alleged violation of Judicial Conduct Rule 1.3, which reads: “A judge shall not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others, or allow others to do so.”
“Our review of the record supports the findings of the panel and the board,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “[T]he [board’s] panel concluded that the evidence was contradictory and that the record, taken as a whole, did not produce ‘a firm conviction’ that Judge Oldfield used her judicial title to influence the officers to accord her or Loya special treatment or that her conduct gave the appearance that she was using her title for that purpose. We find that the panel reviewed the record using an objective standard to determine whether Judge Oldfield’s conduct created an appearance of impropriety, i.e., whether her behavior would create, in reasonable minds, a perception that she was improperly using her position to gain favor. We therefore overrule [the Disciplinary Counsel’s] objections ….”
In determining the appropriate sanction, the court considered Oldfield’s failure to disqualify herself from more than 50 cases in which Loya was representing defendants to be an aggravating factor. But the court also noted the judge’s lack of any prior disciplinary record, her open disclosure and cooperative attitude in the disciplinary hearings, and her good character and reputation. Based on these circumstances, Oldfield’s conduct, and court precedent, the majority ruled to publicly reprimand the judge.
Joining Justice Kennedy’s opinion were Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Terrence O’Donnell, Judith L. French, and William M. O’Neill. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor dissented in part in an opinion joined by Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger.
In her opinion, Chief Justice O’Connor agreed with the majority that Oldfield violated two judicial rules and one professional conduct rule and concurred in the sanction. However, the chief justice dissented from the dismissal of Jud.Cond.R. 1.3.
“Importantly, Judge Oldfield’s first mention of her status as a judge to the officers was gratuitous and, contrary to the majority’s characterization, more than a mere ‘remark,’” she wrote. “During the arrest, Officer Garner asked a ‘yes or no’ question — whether Judge Oldfield was a lawyer. Judge Oldfield testified that she responded, ‘Yeah, actually, I’ve been an attorney for some time and now I’m a judge.’ Judge Oldfield acknowledged that she could have responded truthfully in a number of alternative ways, including by offering simply that she was licensed to practice law. The specific mention of her judgeship in response was not solicited or required, nor should it have been offered. Indeed, it served only one purpose: to make sure that the officer knew that she was a judge.”
In addition, the judge continued to insert herself into Loya’s arrest and booking at the police station, Justice O’Connor noted.
“I find that the evidence as a whole establishes that a reasonable person would believe that Judge Oldfield abused the prestige of her office to advance her and Loya’s interests,” she concluded. “Therefore, I would sustain [the Disciplinary Counsel’s] objection to the board’s dismissal of the Jud.Cond.R. 1.3 allegation and would find that Judge Oldfield violated the rule.”
The Akron Beacon Journal had this earlier story, which reports that the police found the judge and public defender in the backseat of the car and that both were "partially clothed and smelled of alcohol."
Scene and Heard had this report. (Mike Frisch)
A recent judicial ethics opinion from South Carolina
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON STANDARDS OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
OPINION NO. 10 - 2014
RE: Propriety of an appellate court judge presiding over matters in which the judge’s law clerk’s parent is counsel of record or another attorney from the parent’s agency is attorney of record.
An appellate court judge has hired a law clerk whose parent is an attorney for an agency that frequently has cases before the court. The judge inquires as to whether the judge can preside over matters in which the clerk’s parent: 1) is an attorney of record but does not physically appear before the court and does not sign any filings for a particular case; 2) an attorney from the same office as the clerk’s parent signs all pleadings and makes a physical appearance but the clerk’s parent is not an attorney of record.
An appellate court judge may not preside over cases where the parent of the judge’s clerk is an attorney of record, appears on the pleadings, or makes any appearance in the case. Where another attorney from the parent’s agency is attorney of record, the judge’s law clerk is disqualified from any involvement in the case, but the judge is not disqualified.
Canon 3.E.(1)(d) states that a judge should disqualify himself or herself where the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned. In addition, Canons 1 and 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct require a judge to avoid the appearance of impropriety and act in a manner to promote the public’s confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
When the parent of a judge’s law clerk is an attorney of record and appears on the pleadings in the case, or makes any appearance in the case, the judge is disqualified. In matters in which another attorney from the same agency as the parent is the attorney of record and the parent makes no appearance, the law clerk is disqualified under Rule 506, SCACR, Canon 3E(4), which states that law clerk shall disqualify himself in matters in which he is related by blood or marriage to an attorney in a proceeding. Furthermore, the law clerk should be shielded from any part of the case by what is commonly known as a “Chinese Wall.” However, the disqualification of the law clerk does not extend to the judge. In addition, while the judge is not required to disclose that the judge’s law clerk has a parent who works for the same agency as attorney appearing as counsel of record, it would be wise to do so.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
The Florida Supreme Court has reprimanded and fined a judge for campaign violations.
The judge purchased a table at a Republican Party event, left out "for" prior to the office she sought in campaign material (which is required of non-incumbants) and accepted funds fron her spouse.
Justice Lewis in dissent decried the use of large fines as a sanction
While I recognize that this Court has the authority to impose fines for ethical violations committed by judges and judicial candidates, I continue to oppose the utilization of large fines to punish serious violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. See In re Pando, 903 So. 2d 902, 904-05 (Fla. 2005) (Lewis, J., specially concurring); In re Kinsey, 842 So. 2d 77, 99 (Fla. 2003) (Lewis, J., concurring in part, dissenting in part). Faith and confidence in our judicial system is rooted in the ability to rely upon the integrity and independence of our judges. That confidence is severely undermined when an ethical transgression of a judge or judicial candidate is so severe that it justifies the imposition of a fine of this magnitude.
The New York Court of Appeals has upheld an order removing a surrogate's court judge from office.
The judge had presided over matters involving a very close friend (and former judge) as well as a matter in which her personal attorney was counsel.
The judge claimed that the matters were uncontested and thus no harm, no foul.
The Rules Governing Judicial Conduct create no distinction between contested and uncontested/ministerial matters. The perception that these attorneys were in a position to be accorded preferential treatment is based on their relationships to the judge, not the type of proceedings. As the Commission pointed out, assuming that petitioner actually believed recusal was unnecessary under existing precedent and that there could be no appearance of impropriety or favoritism in her presiding over the matters involving these three individuals, her behavior reflects "exceedingly poor judgment and an inability to recognize impropriety."
A dissent notes the judge's "remarkable" career and would impose censure
Judge Doyle's tenure is remarkable. She served for 20 years as Chief Clerk of the Albany County Surrogate's Court. She was an Adjunct Professor of Law at Albany Law School teaching courses on trusts and estates and Surrogate Court procedure. She has been a frequent lecturer for the New York State Bar Association, Surrogate Judges Association and the Office of Court Administration. She also served as an Acting Supreme Court Justice by designation of the Office of Court Administration. The voters of Albany County elected her Surrogate twice.
Judge Doyle was first elected Surrogate in 2000 and reelected in 2010. She presided over a Court that has processed over 3,500 cases annually. The charges here are few and minor and involve only an "appearance of impropriety" and concededly involved no impropriety in fact.
The judge had previously been censured for giving misleading and evasive testimony.
The determination of the Commission on Judicial Conduct is linked here. (Mike Frisch)
Monday, June 23, 2014
The Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee opines
May a judge who is a candidate for re-election use in the judge’s campaign literature and electronic media a picture of the judge being sworn in at the judge’s investiture by a now deceased former judge?
Regardless of whether the judge in the photograph is deceased or alive, it appears the use of this photograph could “imply” to the voting public that the judge pictured with the candidate judge previously endorsed or would have endorsed the candidate judge. It must be recognized that the audience to whom the campaign materials are directed may or may not realize the pictured judge is deceased, but this realization arguably does not change the outcome of the inquiry. For example, if the voting public knows the judge pictured with the candidate judge is deceased, the picture still potentially implies the deceased judge previously endorsed or would have endorsed the candidate judge. If the voting public does not know the judge pictured is deceased, the picture potentially implies the pictured judge endorses the candidate judge. These implications, and potential misrepresentations, are the very type of conduct addressed in Fla. JEAC Op. 10-18 and prohibited by Canon 7A(3)(e)(ii).
Therefore, given this Committee’s prior opinions prohibiting the use of photographs depicting other judges, both in campaign literature and on any website, and given candidates have an obligation under Canon 7A(3)(e)(ii) to not knowingly misrepresent a fact concerning their candidacy, and given that use of the photograph in question could imply and give to the voting public the perception of endorsement of the inquiring candidate judge by the deceased judge pictured in the photograph, the Committee believes the inquiring judge should avoid use of the photograph in question in the judge’s campaign materials and electronic media.
Monday, June 16, 2014
The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline rejected the proposed sanction of removal from office of a magisterial district judge and ordered a suspension without pay and probation for misconduct relating to dismissed parking tickets.
The judge presided over a busy court and suffers from Crohn's Disease, which caused urgent bathroom needs.
She received a number of parking citations, three of which she had dismissed.
The court found mitigation
The offending conduct here was an isolated incident which we believe would never have happened save for the coming together of a number of events and circumstances, as
- Respondent’s affliction with Crohn’s disease,
- the onset of an urgent need to use a restroom,
- the inadequacy of the restroom in the court office,
- the need to use the restroom at her home,
- the non-existence of a legal parking space near her home at the time,
- the issuance of the tickets while she used the restroom at home,
- the onset of a painful medical condition requiring treatment including hospitalization and surgery during the critical 15-day period when she would, ordinarily, have paid the tickets.
The misconduct was deemed to be an isolated incident by an outstanding magisterial district judge who presides over a busy court in an exemplary manner.
Further, the judge had self-reported. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
The New York Court of Appeals held that the Commission on Judicial Conduct is authorized to obtain sealed records in aid of an ongoing investigation into alleged judicial misconduct.
The appeal was brought by an attorney who was criminally prosecuted for campaign violations along with a judge. The charges were either dismissed or led to a jury acquittal.
The commission sought the records after the criminal charges were resolved. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, June 5, 2014
The Florida Supreme Court has disbarred former Broward County Circuit Court Judge Ana Gardiner for misconduct involving her relationship with the prosecutor in a death penalty case in which she presided
Monday, June 2, 2014
A town court justice was censured by the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct for, among other things, his involvement with a DUI defendant
In sum, respondent's handling of the Matus case was inconsistent with numerous fundamental ethical principles. Viewed objectively, the totality of his conduct chatting with a defendant about his case during a ride in a police car, recommending that the defendant retain a lawyer with whom the judge had a business relationship, and granting the relief requested by the defendant even after respondent had indicated he could not handle the case breached the appropriate boundaries between a judge and a litigant and thereby created "a very public appearance of impropriety" (Referee's report 13), which adversely affects public confidence in the judiciary as a whole.
He also imposed fines in excess of the allowable maximum and made improper political contributions. (Mike Frisch)
The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct removed a judge of the Albany Surrogate's Court as a result of findings summarized in a press release
The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that Cathryn M. Doyle, a Judge of the Surrogate’s Court, Albany County, should be removed for presiding over matters involving her close friend, her personal attorney, and a lawyer who acted as her campaign manager. The judge was publicly censured by the Commission in 2007 for giving testimony that among other things was "evasive and deceptive," "misleading and obstructionist."
From 2007 to 2011 Judge Doyle failed to disqualify herself from, and took judicial action in, nine matters involving attorneys with whom she had close professional and personal relationships: four matters involving her close friend and personal attorney, Thomas J. Spargo; four matters involving attorney Matthew J. Kelly, the judge’s de facto campaign manager in her 2007 failed campaign for a nomination to the state Supreme Court and later the campaign manager in her 2010 campaign for reelection as Surrogate; and one matter involving William Cade, the attorney who had represented her in an earlier Commission proceeding that resulted in her censure in 2007. (Mr. Spargo was himself removed from judicial office after a Commission proceeding in 2006 and, in related proceedings, was disbarred by the Appellate Division and convicted of a felony in federal court.)
Among the judicial actions Judge Doyle took in these matters was admitting wills to probate, issuing letters of administration, signing decrees granting administration after probate, conducting conferences and issuing various orders, appointing guardians ad litem for infants named in a will, and determining that particular infants were intended trust beneficiaries of a will.
As to removal
In imposing the sanction of removal, the Commission underscored that the misconduct began soon after she was censured by the Commission in 2007 for giving "evasive" testimony in a proceeding inquiring into her actions in connection with a legal defense trust fund for Mr. Spargo, who was then a Supreme Court Justice. The Commission stated that, "if not for her disciplinary history, [Judge Doyle] may have had a more credible argument to retain her judgeship." The Commission concluded: "Under the circumstances, we are constrained to view [Judge Doyle’s] misconduct with particular severity since, in view of her censure in 2007, she should have been especially sensitive to her ethical obligations, including her duty to avoid even the appearance of impropriety."
The Commission's web page notes
Judge Doyle has requested review of the determination in the Court of Appeals, which has scheduled oral argument for June 5, 2014.
The Court of Appeals suspended Judge Doyle from office, with pay, pending review of the Commission's determination. The Court's order is available at Doyle Suspension.
The judge was on the Albany Law adjunct faculty. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
A judicial ethics opinion from South Carolina addresses this question
A full-time Magistrate judge inquires into the propriety of serving as the head baseball coach for a high school or an American Legion team. The high school team is funded by the school district which also pays the coach’s salary. The high school team is also supported by a booster club that has fund-raising projects. The American Legion team is funded by donations and sponsors, and the judge’s coaching position is an unpaid, volunteer position. The judge does not solicit sponsors or donations. The team’s general manager handles all donations, sponsors, and bookkeeping. However, the team does hold several fund-raisers, for which the judge participates in planning and operations. One fund-raiser was a golf tournament for which a flyer was produced asking for hole sponsorship; the judge’s name (with no reference to judicial office) was one of several others listed as persons to contact regarding the tournament.
It's OK with a caveat
Here, if the judge does continue employment with the high school, the judge should not actively solicit funds on behalf of the booster club, though the judge may assist the booster club in planning fund-raisers. If the judge observes the Canons on fund-raising, there is no violation against employment as a high school baseball coach.
As the coach for the American Legion team, it appears that the judge would only be involved in planning the fund-raisers, and not in any active solicitation. Moreover, the flyer listing the judge as one of the tournament organizers for the legion team is akin to the use of letterhead for fund-raising and, since the judge’s office is not included on the flyer, there is no violation of the Canons. Therefore, the judge may serve as an unpaid volunteer coach for an American Legion baseball team, provided that the judge continue to observe the limitations on fund-raising.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
The Florida Supreme Court has ordered that a circuit court judge be publicly reprimanded for a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol.
The breath test results were double the legal limit.
The court called the conduct "reprehensible."
In Florida, a public censure requires the judge to appear in court to be reprimanded. The published opinion is not sufficient. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
A recent opinion from the Florida's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee
Whether a Judge, who is a member of a regional Association for Women Lawyers, may participate as a model as a part of an event described as a “cocktail party and fashion show,” where the event’s proceeds “primarily benefit…a free childcare facility located inside the…courthouse” but also help fund the association’s “assistance to deserving law students in need of financial support.”
The inquiring judge is a member of a regional Association for Women Lawyers (“the Association”) in the judge’s circuit. The Association is presenting its “annual spring cocktail party and fashion show.” In addition to a spring fashion runway show produced by a local department store, the event will offer to attendees “exclusive storewide discounts, door prizes, a silent auction, and special VIP offerings.” According to the Association’s event chair, “This stylish event supports the growth of [the area’s] professional women and women-owned businesses, while raising money for two important causes: [a free childcare facility located inside the courthouse] and [the Association’s] Bar Scholarship [which provides assistance to deserving law students in need of financial support].” The Association’s solicitation letter for event sponsors states in part, “As a sponsor, you will have the unique opportunity to showcase your business to the stars of [the local area’s] legal, business and executive communities.”
The event chair explains that the free childcare facility serves children who are brought to court by their caregivers when the caregivers have no safe place to leave them during the caregivers’ required attendance in court. She states it “spares these children from witnessing adult interactions that could be painful or frightening for them.” The childcare program in the courthouse therefore provides a supervised drop-in childcare facility for litigants, jurors and witnesses when childcare issues might otherwise create an obstacle for court participants to attend court proceedings. The facility “also provides their caregivers with referrals to resources like full-time child care or career counseling so they can return to work, financial assistance for crisis situations, counseling for children who have experienced trauma, and even beds for their homes.”
The inquiring judge asks whether a judge is permitted to participate in the Association’s fundraising event by modeling some of the fashions in the spring fashion show.
Canon 2B provides, “A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others….” The Commentary to Canon 2B states in part:
Respect for the judicial office facilitates the orderly conduct of legitimate judicial functions. Judges should distinguish between proper and improper use of the prestige of office in all of their activities. A judge must avoid lending the prestige of judicial office for the advancement of the private interests of others.
In 2008, the Florida Supreme Court in In re Amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct-Limitations on Judges’ Participation in Fundraising Activities, 983 So. 2d 550 (Fla. 2008) amended Canons 4 and 5 of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct to allow for judicial participation in fundraising in the context of “quasi-judicial activities” and “extrajudicial activities” concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. Canon 4D(2) was amended to permit a judge to participate in a fundraising event if the event met two criteria: (1) the event is sponsored by an organization or governmental entity that is devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, the judicial branch or the administration of justice, and (2) the event concerns the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice and the funds raised will be used for a law-related purpose. If these two criteria are met, then a judge may “speak at, receive an award or other recognition at, be featured on the program of and permit the judge’s title to be used in conjunction with [a fundraising] event….” Fla. Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 4D(2)(b). But even if these criteria are met, Canon 4D(2)(a) prohibits judges from personally or directly participating in the solicitation of funds from anyone except from other judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority.
Canon 4 states, “A Judge Is Encouraged to Engage in Activities to Improve the Law, the Legal System, and the Administration of Justice.” Canon 4A provides, in pertinent part:
A. A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s quasi-judicial activities so that they do not: * * * (2) undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality; [or] (3) demean the judicial office;
The Commentary to Canon 4B states, “This canon was clarified in order to encourage judges to engage in activities to improve the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice.” Canon 4D(2)(b), dealing with a judge’s participation in an organization devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, the judicial branch, or the administration of justice, now provides:
(2) A judge as an officer, director, trustee or non-legal advisor, or as a member or otherwise: * * * (b) may appear or speak at, receive an award or other recognition at, be featured on the program of, and permit the judge’s title to be used in conjunction with an event of such an organization or entity, but if the event serves a fund-raising purpose, the judge may participate only if the event concerns the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice and the funds raised will be used for a law related purpose(s);
The majority opinion in In Re Amendments, supra, observed that the amendment to Canon 4 “is intended to allow judges to participate in a law-related organization’s fundraiser only where the particular event serves a law-related purpose and the funds raised will be used for a law-related purpose.” 983 So. 2d, at 552. The opinion placed the responsibility on a judge who wants to participate in a fundraising event to determine if the event meets the criteria of Canon 4D(2). Id. Justice Peggy Quince, in her dissent cautioned that a judge who wants to participate in a fundraising event permitted by Canon 4D(2) “will have to make a judgment call on whether or not a particular organization or event falls within the ambit of the amendment.” In re Amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct-Limitations on Judges’ Participation in Fundraising Activities, 983 So. 2d 550, 553 (Fla. 2008) (Quince, J., dissenting).
The Committee is of the opinion that the Association is an organization devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, the judicial branch, or the administration of justice. The courthouse childcare program improves the administration of justice by decreasing continuances due to childcare issues and by making the courts more accessible to parents who would not otherwise be able to attend required court proceedings because of a lack of childcare options. The Committee further believes the free childcare program in the courthouse contributes to the administration of justice by helping childcare providers to honor their required court appearances and by providing a safe and convenient childcare service for their children during such appearances.
Thus, the Committee advises the inquiring judge, who is a member of a regional Association for Women Lawyers, that the judge may participate as a model as a part of an event described as a “cocktail party and fashion show,” where the event’s proceeds “primarily benefit…a free childcare facility located inside the…courthouse” but also help fund the association’s “assistance to deserving law students in need of financial support.” Cf., Fla. JEAC OP. 11-06 (Judge may not speak and be featured on a program and permit the Judge’s title to be used for a fundraiser for a program which provides supervised childcare to parents and guardians who are attending court-related matters, because, although the program is law-related, it is under the umbrella of the YWCA, an organization that is not solely devoted to the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.)
Monday, May 5, 2014
Over a pointed dissent by Justice Harris, the New Jersey Appellate Division has affirmed a criminal conviction.
The court squarely rejected the principal challenge of the defendant -- that he could not be tried before a judge who had been mandatorily retired when he reached the age of 70.
The 73-year-old judge was recalled from retirement to hear the case.
The court noted regular practice that has long permitted retired judges to be recalled to preside over cases and responded to the dissent
Stripped of its plumage, the dissent's contrary construction boils down to this: the plain language of the Judicial Retirement paragraph creates an irrevocable alienation of pensioner from title, a kind of sequestration, worse yet quarantine, rendering the judicial retiree incognito, isolated and idle, relegated to some sort of professional limbo, yet imprisoned by all the ethical restraints of a status and an office that somehow no longer exists. Nothing in the language of the Judicial Article, or its intended purpose, however, compels this overly harsh result.
Warning: the elegantly pragmatic approach of the able and well-researched opinion of my colleagues may seduce the reader into undiscerning agreement. I urge caution and a willingness to disagree...
Notwithstanding its salutary purposes and practical success, N.J.S.A. 43:6A-13(b) cannot be justified when taking bearings from the Constitution. Historical acceptance cannot establish the statute's bona fides, see Henry, supra, 204 N.J. at 345 (Rabner, C.J., concurring) (noting that "historical practice alone rarely proves the correctness of a legal proposition"), and historical patterns cannot save an unconstitutional practice.
I take final comfort in the recollection of Morris M. Schnitzer, who was asked in 1995, "Was it contemplated that judges, once retired at age 70, could be recalled?" Conversations with Morris M. Schnitzer, supra, 47 Rutgers L. Rev. at 1401. Schnitzer —— who was present during the Constitution's conception, gestation, and birth —— unequivocally responded: "Certainly not, since that would have resurrected the example of Justice Parker and others who sat long after their peak." Ibid. If that is the way Schnitzer remembered it, who am I to disagree?
Mr. Schnitzer is remembered here. (Mike Frisch)
Thursday, May 1, 2014
The Florida Supreme Court has issued a public reprimand of an attorney for an ethical violation during a campaign for judicial office.
In September 2009, the Respondent became a candidate for County Court Judge, Group 10, Hillsborough County, Florida. On September 4, 2009, the Respondent signed a campaign fundraising letter, in which she personally solicited campaign contributions. The Respondent admitted to having reviewed and approved the letter. At the time she signed the letter, no other candidate for the judgeship had been announced. In addition to soliciting campaign contributions, the letter stated that the Respondent served the "community as Public Defender," though her correct title was "assistant public defender." The letter also included a link to the Respondent’s website, which correctly referenced her work history as an assistant public defender.
The court rejected a constitutional challenge to the code provision.
Under Canon 7C(1), the Respondent was not completely barred from soliciting campaign funds, but was simply required to utilize a separate campaign committee to engage in the task of fundraising. In other words, Canon 7C(1) is narrowly tailored because it seeks to "insulate judicial candidates from the solicitation and receipt of funds while leaving open, ample alternative means for candidates to raise the resources necessary to run their campaigns." Simes, 247 S.W.3d at 883. We conclude that Canon 7C(1) promotes the State’s compelling interests in preserving the integrity of the judiciary and maintaining the public’s confidence in an impartial judiciary, and that it is narrowly tailored to effectuate those interests. Therefore, we hold that Canon 7C(1) is constitutional, and we approve the referee’s recommendation that the Respondent be found guilty of violating rule 4-8.2(b).
Friday, April 25, 2014
David Hricik (Mercer, Law) has posted to SSRN a useful paper for judges, but also for the rest of us interested in how their ethics are affected by new technologies (and how to deal with lawyer ethics of using tech). It is titled Technology and Judicial Ethics and its abstract is:
This paper was written for judges to assist them in understanding: their obligations concerning Facebook and other social networking sites, including "friending" lawyers; the confidentiality of email, texts, and other e-communications; the use of the Internet by lawyers to research jurors or potential jurors; the use of the Internet by judges to research the facts and law; and how to admonish jurors not to use the Internet to research the case before them or to discuss it prior to deliberations.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
A state district court judge who improperly interfered with a pending matter involving a friend has been publicly reprimanded hy the Nebraska Supreme Court.
...here is essentially no dispute that [Judge] Schatz used his judicial authority to order the release of Davlin without Davlin’s paying a bond. The record shows that Schatz’ actions were not in accord with how bonds were normally set in felony drunk driving cases. Specifically, the record shows that without Schatz’ intervention, Davlin would have remained in jail until his arraignment in county court, when presumably either he would have been released on his own recognizance or a monetary bond would have been set. In the latter and more probable circumstance, Davlin would have been held in jail until he posted bond.
While the court did not condone the conduct, it concluded that a number a mitigating circumstances justified a reprimand. (Mike Frisch)
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has released its annual report.
This press release summarizes the year in judging judges
The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has released its 2014 Annual Report, covering the Commission’s activities in 2013. The Commissionreports having received 1,770 complaints, conducting 654 preliminary inquiries and investigations, and issuing 17 public decisions in 2013. In addition, 10 judges resigned from office while complaints against them were pending.
The bottom line
17 public decisions were rendered:
2 Removals from office
• 5 Public Censures
• 5 Public Admonitions
• 5 Public Stipulations in which judges resigned and agreed to never again hold judicial office
• 5 other judges resigned at a point before the proceedings against them became public.
A detailed, annual report from a body regulating lawyer and judicial discipline promotes transparency and is a necessary part of any reputable regulatory regime.
The District of Columbia disciplinary system has never issued such a publicly-available report. (Mike Frisch)
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
A town court justice who presided over traffic, minor drug and alcohol offenses and small claims matters was suspended from the practice of law for not less than five years without automatic reinstatement by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Defendants who faced first-time traffic charges would receive deferred prosecution "if they took a defensive driving course." Such courses were conducted in the justice's courtroom on a Saturday with the profits going to the driving school.
But things changed
In October 2001, Respondent created her own business called Diversified Educational Services ("DES") which offered the defensive driving courses. Respondent's father contracted with W.S.1 to open a checking account in the name of DES, which Respondent and her father controlled. Respondent directed that the fees collected from defendants that she ordered to attend the driving school be deposited into the DES account. Between November 2001 and December 2003, people attending DES driving school paid fees totaling $29,600. W.S. was shown as the sole owner of the account to conceal Respondent's financial interest in DES. Respondent paid W.S. $3,800 from the DES account for his cooperation. Respondent did not disclose her financial interest in DES to the Town or to defendants charged with traffic offenses in her court.
In December 2001, Respondent stopped paying rent to the Town for DES's use of the courtroom for the driving classes. Between December 2001 and December 2003, DES conducted sixteen driving school classes for which no rent was paid to the Town.
The justice also used her position to profit from referral of young adults to a counseling program and concealed her financial interest in the referrals.
The justice was convicted of mail fraud and was suspended on an interim basis as a result. The court considered a number of mitigating factors. (Mike Frisch)