Monday, November 27, 2017

Bedlam Corners

A town court justice who is also an attorney has been admonished by the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct.

A victim of an alleged crime had been employed by his wife

From August 2014 through September 2014, Ms. M. had been employed by Virginia Curran, respondent's wife, at the Bedlam Comers General Store in Hebron, New York. Respondent was aware that Ms. M. had been so employed

Respondent's wife owns the Bedlam Comers General Store and also serves as respondent's court clerk.

He denied motions to recuse himself and engaged in ex parte contacts relating to the matter over the telephone and at a gas station

A few months after arraigning the defendant on charges of Assault and other offenses and issuing an order of protection, respondent received unsolicited ex parte information from two sources (an individual who approached him out of court and an anonymous voicemail message) claiming that the defendant had violated the order of protection by taking trips with the complaining witness. Respondent was obligated to disclose these out-of-court communications to the prosecutor and defense counsel and to provide the defendant with an opportunity to rebut the information in court. Instead, at a pre-trial conference a few days later, he not only failed to disclose the communications but compounded the impropriety by repeating the information he had received as fact ("I'm aware there's been multiple violations of the order of protection"), notwithstanding that the defendant had not been charged with violating the order. He reiterated the accusations when he accepted a plea agreement, sentenced the defendant and issued a six month order of protection, warning the defendant that he would "get the maximum" if he violated the order "again." These unsubstantiated accusations conveyed the appearance that respondent had received and was influenced by undisclosed, unauthorized information that the defendant, unaware of its source, was unable to refute. Even after defense counsel interjected that if respondent had such information he should not be handling the case, respondent did not disclose the communications.

(Mike Frisch)

Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink


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