Thursday, July 9, 2020
The New York Commission on Judicial Conduct has admonished a town court justice for remarks made in connection with pending matters and to an assistant district attorney
Respondent stipulated that his disparaging remarks regarding the Department of Probation, one of its employees and an employee of the Department of Health while presiding over a violation of probation matter were improper and undermined public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary. Similarly, respondent admitted that his comment that the daughter of a litigant was “dressing for attention” was also inappropriate. Respondent compounded his misconduct when, after it was noted that the litigant’s daughter wore yoga pants to court, respondent told the ADA during a case conference, “if you wear yoga pants to court, it’s okay with me.” When the ADA did not respond to his improper comment, respondent, who understood at the time that his remark was inappropriate, stated, “Are there cameras in here?”
It was discourteous and unacceptable for respondent to tell an attorney appearing before him that she could wear yoga pants to court. This comment was particularly inappropriate since respondent had just made a remark by which he meant that the litigant’s daughter who had worn yoga pants to court did so “for men to look at her.”
Respondent demeaned the ADA and detracted from the professionalism of the proceeding over which he was presiding. In addition, respondent’s comments to the ADA and her friend asking whether they “want[ed] a room” and offering to “turn off the lights” were also demeaning and inappropriate for a judge to make in a courtroom. By his conduct, respondent violated his ethical responsibilities.
More than 30 years ago, the Commission made clear that it was inappropriate for a judge to make comments regarding the appearance of female attorneys even if such comments were intended to be humorous.
The justice accepted that he should have recused himself in the probation matter.
The stipulation of facts is linked here. (Mike Frisch)