Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"That's Your License Counselor"

The New York Commission on Judicial Conduct has admonished a judge

Respondent, Genine D. Edwards, a Justice of the Supreme Court, Kings County, was served with a Formal Written Complaint dated May 21, 2019, containing one charge. The Formal Written Complaint alleged that on March 9, 2017, while presiding over a trial in Carolyn Thomas v. Quest Livery Services, LLC et al., respondent threatened to file a professional grievance against an attorney unless his client immediately offered to settle the case for $25,000.

In closing argument in the underlying case

On March 8, 2017, the attorney for defendants Urbina and Bahiro, Michael L. Tawil, Esq., delivered a summation in which he made the following statement:

On the other hand, you have Mr. Batista. He's on the phone talking to his female girlfriend or someone. He's selling cell phones to his passenger, he's listening to the radio, he said they're having a good time in the car. They're having a good time and he's paying attention to the passenger, to his girlfriend, probably to the radio. For all we know, he could be frying up some platanos in the front seat. We don't know. But he's not paying attention to the road, what's going on around him, okay.

The next day, March 9, 2017, before the jury was charged, respondent conducted an off-the-record conference in chambers with both Mr. Tawil and his client's insurance adjuster for the purpose of settling the case and addressing Mr. Tawil's summation remark.

During the off-the-record conference, respondent said that Mr. Tawil's statement during summation about platanos was "racist" and that she and her court staff were offended by his remark. Respondent then told Mr. Tawil, "What's going to happen now is your client is going to pay $25,000 to settle this case right now or I am going to report you to the Appellate Division Second Department. That's your license counselor.''

The insurance adjuster called his supervisor and then advised respondent that his client refused to settle the case for $25,000.

The jury returned a $200,000 verdict that was reduced to $65,000. The judge did not file a bar complaint

Respondent acknowledges that it was improper to state that she would file a professional grievance against Mr. Tawil unless his client settled the case for a specific sum, even if she believed that Mr. Tawil committed an ethical violation. She recognizes that her words may have created the appearance that she was attempting to use Mr. Tawil's alleged misconduct as leverage to induce his client to settle the case.

(Mike Frisch)


Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink


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