In its 2013 Annual Report, the Commission commented extensively on the obligation of all judges of courts of record – that is, all courts except town and village courts – and of all non-incumbent candidates seeking election to courts of record – to file annual financial disclosure statements, similar to those filed by other state officials and state government employees. Section 211(4) of the Judiciary Law and Section 40.2 of the Rules of the Chief Judge require judges to file an annual financial disclosure statement by May 15 of each succeeding year.
Since 1990, the Ethics Commission for the Unified Court System (UCS Ethics) has been responsible for administering the distribution, collection, review and maintenance of annual financial disclosure statements. The powers, duties and procedures of the UCS Ethics are set forth in 22 NYCRR Parts 40 and 7400.
When a judge is late in submitting the annual statement and fails to respond to notices to cure, UCS Ethics is obliged to issue a notice of delinquency, and to notify the Commission, pursuant to Section 40.1(k) of the Rules of the Chief Judge. Where investigation by the Commission reveals a valid excuse, discipline would not be imposed. Where the explanations are not persuasive – e.g., the judge was busy, or misplaced the disclosure form, or did not check the mail carefully enough for it, or was distracted by personal matters – the Commission has typically issued a Letter of Dismissal and Caution, reminding the judge of the obligations to file and to do so promptly. Two such letters were issued in 2013, four in 2012 and three each in 2011 and 2010.
However, in 2013 there was a first-time public discipline for failure to file a single financial disclosure statement in a timely manner. In Matter of McAndrews,* a District Court judge was censured for being nearly eleven months late in filing and for failing to respond to inquiry letters from the Commission, which resulted in his being summoned to testify about both the underlying complaint and the failure to cooperate. There was no evidence that the tardy McAndrews disclosure statement itself was materially inaccurate.
Filing a materially inaccurate statement would subject the judge to public discipline, particularly if the disclosure violation were coupled with other misconduct. Matter of Joseph S. Alessandro, 13 NY3d 238 (2009); Matter of Francis M. Alessandro, Id.; and Matter of Nora S. Anderson.**
From the 2014 Annual Report, pages 25-26.