New York State

Commission on Judicial Conduct

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April to June 2008
 

 

NEWS RELEASE

June 30, 2008

 

Contacts:

Robert H. Tembeckjian, Administrator

(646) 386-4800

Beth S. Bar, Public Information Officer

(646 ) 386-4791

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that Spero Pines, a Judge of the Family Court, Broome County, should be admonished. 

In a decision dated June 17, 2008, the Commission found that Judge Pines treated litigants in three separate cases with sarcasm and disrespect, thereby failing to be patient, dignified and courteous as required by the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.

The Commission said Judge Pines berated a father for “wasting” his time by requesting custody of his children and seeking counsel despite being incarcerated.  In a second case, he told a mother who was seeking custody of her children despite being in jail on grand larceny charges that she was “not in a position to take care of pets, much less children.” In the third case, Judge Pines used distasteful language to describe one of the parties after a hearing.

The determination can be found at the Commission’s website:   www.scjc.state.ny.us

The Commission Proceedings

Judge Pines was served with a Formal Written Complaint dated August 21, 2007, alleging that he failed to be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants in three cases.

The Administrator of the Commission, Judge Pines’ attorney and Judge Pines entered into an agreed statement of facts on April 29, 2008, stipulating that the judge should be admonished.  The Commission accepted the Agreed Statement.

The Commission Determination

The Commission filed a determination dated June 17, 2008, in which seven members concurred.  Two members, Joseph W. Belluck, Esq., and Richard D. Emery, Esq., dissented as to Charge III, concluding there was no misconduct, but otherwise concurred that the judge should be admonished.  One member, Colleen C. DiPirro, was not present.

Court of Appeals Review

The Commission transmitted its determination to the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, pursuant to Judiciary Law Section 44, subdivision 7.

A judge may either accept the Commission’s determination or, within 30 days from the date s/he received the determination, make a written request to the Chief Judge for a review of the determination by the Court of Appeals.  Pursuant to Judiciary Law Section 44, subdivision 7, if Judge Pines does not request review by the Court of Appeals, the Commission will admonish him in accordance with the determination.

If the Commission’s determination is reviewed by the Court of Appeals, the Court may accept the determined sanction, impose a different sanction including admonition, censure or removal, or impose no sanction.

Statistics Relating to Prior Determinations

Since 1978, the Commission has admonished 222 judges in New York State.  The Commission has issued a determination of removal as to 158 judges and censured 265 judges.

The Court of Appeals has reviewed 86 Commission determinations.  The Court accepted the Commission’s sanctions in 72 cases.  Of the remaining 14 cases, two were increased from censure to removal, and twelve were reduced:  nine removal determinations were modified to censure, two censure determinations were modified to admonition, and one censure was rejected and the charges dismissed.

Counsel

In the proceedings before the Commission, Judge Pines was represented by Philip J. Kramer of Hinman, Howard & Kattell (607-723-5341).  Robert H. Tembeckjian, Esq., Administrator, and Cathleen S. Cenci, Esq., Deputy Administrator for the Commission’s Albany office, served as counsel to the Commission.  Senior Investigator David Herr assisted in the investigation.

Members of the Commission

The Commission members serve four-year terms.  A list of members is appended.

The Public File

The determination is attached.  It is also available for inspection during regular business hours at the Commission's three offices:

61 Broadway

New York, New York 10006

 

Corning Tower, Suite 2301

Empire State Plaza

Albany, New York 12223

 

400 Andrews Street

Rochester, New York 14604

 

MEMBERS OF THE STATE COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT

Member

Appointing Authority

Term Expiration

 Hon. Thomas A. Klonick, Chair

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2009

 Stephen R. Coffey, Esq., Vice Chair

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno

March 31, 2011

Joseph W. Belluck, Esq.

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2012

Colleen C. DiPirro

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2009

Richard D. Emery, Esq.

Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith

March 31, 2012

Paul B. Harding, Esq.

Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco

March 31, 2009

Elizabeth B. Hubbard

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2011

Marvin E. Jacob, Esq.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

March 31, 2010

Hon. Jill Konviser

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2010

Hon. Karen K. Peters

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2010

Hon. Terry Jane Ruderman

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2012

 

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NEWS RELEASE

June 3, 2008

 

Contacts:

Robert H. Tembeckjian, Administrator

(646) 386-4800

Beth S. Bar, Public Information Officer

(646 ) 386-4791

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that Linda C. Griffin, a Judge of the Family Court, Rensselaer County, should be censured.

In a determination dated May 16, 2008, the Commission found that Judge Griffin “abused the contempt power” by holding litigants in three different cases in contempt of court without explicitly warning them of the consequences of their behavior and without an order stating the facts justifying the contempt citation, which is necessary to enable appellate review.

“Regardless of whether the parties’ initial behavior provided sufficient basis for a contempt holding,” the Commission said that, pursuant to Judiciary Law Sections 752 and 755, Judge Griffin had an obligation to warn the litigants “explicitly that their conduct could result in a summary citation for criminal contempt resulting in incarceration,” and to give the litigants a chance to “desist from the conduct.”

One litigant was held in jail for less than an hour, and the other two were held for seven days.  One of those two, a 16-year-old, had already been remanded to a juvenile detention facility and did not spend any additional time in custody as a result of the contempt.

The Commission noted that Judge Griffin was “contrite,” acknowledged that she did not comply with statutory mandates and was cooperative throughout the proceeding.  In addition, after the three incidents in this case, the judge attended a judicial education and training program on contempt run by the Office of Court Administration.

The determination can be found on the Commission’s website: www.scjc.state.ny.us

The Commission Proceedings

Judge Griffin was served with a Formal Written Complaint dated August 21, 2007, and filed an answer dated September 9, 2007.  On April 29, 2008, the Administrator of the Commission, Judge Griffin and her attorney entered into an Agreed Statement of Facts, recommending that Judge Griffin be censured and waiving further submissions and oral argument. The Commission accepted the Agreed Statement on May 7, 2008.

The Commission Determination

The Commission filed a determination dated May 16, 2008, in which nine members concurred.  One member, Colleen C. DiPirro, was not present.

Court of Appeals Review

The Commission transmitted its determination to the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, pursuant to Judiciary Law Section 44, subdivision 7.

A judge may either accept the Commission's determination or, within 30 days from the date he received the determination, make a written request to the Chief Judge for a review of the determination by the Court of Appeals.

Pursuant to Judiciary Law Section 44, subdivision 7, if Judge Griffin does not request review by the Court of Appeals, the Commission will censure her in accordance with the determination. 

If the Commission’s determination is reviewed by the Court of Appeals, the Court may accept the determined sanction, impose a different sanction including admonition, censure or removal, or impose no sanction.

Statistics Relating to Prior Determinations

Since 1978, the Commission has censured 268 judges in New York State, 78 of them full-time judges.  (More than two-thirds of the judiciary in New York State are part-time).  The Commission has issued a determination of removal as to 158 judges and has admonished 221 judges. 

The Court of Appeals has reviewed 85 Commission determinations.  The Court accepted the Commission’s sanctions in 71 cases.  Of the remaining 14 cases, two were increased from censure to removal, and twelve were reduced:  nine removal determinations were modified to censure, two censure determinations were modified to admonition, and one censure was rejected and the charges dismissed.

Counsel

In the proceedings before the Commission, Judge Griffin was represented by Larry J. Rosen Esq., 113 Great Oaks Office Park, Albany, New York, 12203 (518) 452-1772. Robert H. Tembeckjian, Esq., Administrator and Counsel to the Commission, Cathleen S. Cenci, Esq., Deputy Administrator for the Commission’s Albany office, and Jill S. Polk, Esq., Senior Attorney, served as counsel to the Commission. Senior Investigator David Herr assisted in the investigation.

Members of the Commission

The Commission members serve four-year terms.  A list of members is appended.

The Public File

The determination is attached.  It is also available for inspection during regular business hours at the Commission's three offices:

61 Broadway

New York, New York 10006

 

Corning Tower, Suite 2301

Empire State Plaza

Albany, New York 12223

 

400 Andrews Street

Rochester, New York 14604

 

MEMBERS OF THE STATE COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT

Member

Appointing Authority

Term Expiration

 Hon. Thomas A. Klonick, Chair

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2009

 Stephen R. Coffey, Esq., Vice Chair

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno

March 31, 2011

Joseph W. Belluck, Esq.

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2012

Colleen C. DiPirro

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2009

Richard D. Emery, Esq.

Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith

March 31, 2012

Paul B. Harding, Esq.

Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco

March 31, 2009

Marvin E. Jacob, Esq.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

March 31, 2010

Hon. Jill Konviser

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2010

Hon. Karen K. Peters

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2010

Hon. Terry Jane Ruderman

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2012

Vacancy

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2011

 

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NEWS RELEASE

May 29, 2008

 

Contacts:

Robert H. Tembeckjian, Administrator

(646) 386-4800

Beth S. Bar, Public Information Officer

(646 ) 386-4791

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has concluded formal proceedings against Robert C. Murphy, a part-time judge of the Binghamton City Court, Broome County who was charged inter alia with permitting his law partners and associates – including a former member of the Commission – to practice in his court, and to appear before him in some instances, contrary to law and promulgated rules.  Pursuant to a stipulation, the judge agreed not to seek or accept reappointment upon the expiration of his current term of office on June 14, 2008, and acknowledged that if he ever returns to judicial office, the Commission’s Administrator would have the right to reinstate the charges and seek his removal.

Under the terms of the stipulation, Judge Murphy waived the statutory provision of confidentiality applicable to Commission proceedings, to the limited extent that the stipulation would be made public.

The stipulation indicates the following:           

bullet

The Commission served a Formal Written Complaint on Judge Murphy on June 15, 2007, containing five charges. The charges alleged, inter alia, that Judge Murphy permitted his law partners and associates to practice law in the Binghamton City Court in violation of Section 471 of the Judiciary Law and Section 100.6(B)(3) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which prohibits a part-time judge from allowing his or her partners or associates to “practice law in the court in which he or she is a judge.” 

bullet

Judge Murphy answered the Formal Written Complaint on August 10, 2007, in which he admitted in part and denied in part the allegations of the charges. 

bullet

Judge Murphy entered into a Stipulation with the Commission’s Administrator, Robert H. Tembeckjian, on April 11, 2008, affirming that he would not seek or accept reappointment upon the expiration of his current term of office, and acknowledging that if he ever returns to judicial office, the Administrator would have authority to reinstate the charges against him and to seek his removal from judicial office. 

bullet

The Commission accepted the Stipulation in a decision and order dated May 20, 2008. Commission member Richard D. Emery, Esq. abstained from the decision, and Commission member Joseph W. Belluck, Esq. did not participate.

The stipulation and the Commission’s order closing the case can be found on the Commission’s website: www.scjc.state.ny.us

At the time of the misconduct, Judge Murphy was a partner in the Binghamton law firm of Pope, Tait & Murphy, whose appearances in the Binghamton City Court were alleged to have been improper.  [At times, as partnership agreements changed, the firm was called (1) O’Connor, Gacioch, Pope and Tait, and (2) Pope, Schrader and Murphy.]  One of the firm’s members, Alan J. Pope, served on the Commission from 1997 to 2006 and was its Chair from April to May 2006.  Mr. Pope resigned from the Commission in May 2006 when investigation of the complaint against Judge Murphy was initiated. 

Counsel 

Judge Murphy was represented by Charles O. Ingraham, Esq., 46 Front Street, Binghamton, NY 13905, (607) 722-3495. The Commission was represented by Mr. Tembeckjian and Cathleen S. Cenci, Esq., Deputy Administrator for the Commission’s Albany office.  Senior Investigator David M. Herr assisted in the investigation. 

Members of the Commission 

The Commission members serve four-year terms.  A list of members is appended. 

The Public File 

The stipulation and order are attached.  They are also available for inspection during regular business hours at the Commission's three offices:

61 Broadway

New York, New York 10006

 

Corning Tower, Suite 2301

Empire State Plaza

Albany, New York 12223

 

400 Andrews Street

Rochester, New York 14604

 

MEMBERS OF THE STATE COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT

Member

Appointing Authority

Term Expiration

 Hon. Thomas A. Klonick, Chair

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2009

 Stephen R. Coffey, Esq., Vice Chair

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno

March 31, 2011

Joseph W. Belluck, Esq.

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2012

Colleen C. DiPirro

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2009

Richard D. Emery, Esq.

Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith

March 31, 2012

Paul B. Harding, Esq.

Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco

March 31, 2009

Marvin E. Jacob, Esq.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

March 31, 2010

Hon. Jill Konviser

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2010

Hon. Karen K. Peters

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2010

Hon. Terry Jane Ruderman

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2012

Vacancy

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2011

 

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NEWS RELEASE

May 20, 2008

 

Contacts:

Robert H. Tembeckjian, Administrator

(646) 386-4800

Beth S. Bar, Public Information Officer

(646 ) 386-4791

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has completed formal proceedings against John L. Taft, a justice of the Southport Town Court, Chemung County.  Pursuant to a stipulation, the judge will leave office on May 31, 2008, and agreed never to seek or accept judicial office in the future. On that basis, the proceedings were discontinued and the case was closed. 

Under the terms of the stipulation, Judge Taft waived the statutory provision of confidentiality applicable to Commission proceedings, to the limited extent that the stipulation would be made public. The stipulation indicates the following:           

■    The Commission served a Formal Written Complaint on Judge Taft on January 8, 2008, containing one charge. The charge alleged that in or about December 2003 Judge Taft: failed to disqualify himself in People v. Mark D. Gibson, in which the defendant had been charged with Speeding, notwithstanding that the defendant had been Judge Taft’s physician; initiated an ex parte telephone conversation with the defendant; sua sponte granted an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal; and thereby violated various provisions of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.

 

■    Judge Taft answered the Formal Written Complaint on January 25, 2008, in which he admitted the specifically alleged facts of the Formal Written Complaint, but denied that his actions constituted a violation of any of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.;

 

■    Judge Taft submitted a letter on April 11, 2008 to the Southport Town Clerk and the Office of Court Administration stating that he will leave office as of May 31, 2008; and

 

■    Judge Taft affirmed that he will neither seek nor accept judicial office in the future. 

The stipulation and the Commission’s order closing the case can be found on the Commission’s website: www.scjc.state.ny.us 

Counsel 

Judge Taft was represented by Bryan J. Maggs, Esq., 243 Lake Street, Elmira, NY 14901, (607) 733-4635. The Commission was represented by Robert H. Tembeckjian, Esq., Administrator and Counsel to the Commission, and John J. Postel, Esq., Deputy Administrator for the Commission’s Rochester office.  Senior Investigator Rebecca Roberts assisted in the investigation. 

Members of the Commission 

The Commission members serve four-year terms.  A list of members is appended. 

The Public File 

The stipulation and order are attached.  They are also available for inspection during regular business hours at the Commission's three offices: 

61 Broadway

New York, New York 10006

 

Corning Tower, Suite 2301

Empire State Plaza

Albany, New York 12223

 

400 Andrews Street

Rochester, New York 14604

 

MEMBERS OF THE STATE COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT

Member

Appointing Authority

Term Expiration

 Hon. Thomas A. Klonick, Chair

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2009

 Stephen R. Coffey, Esq., Vice Chair

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno

March 31, 2011

Joseph W. Belluck, Esq.

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2012

Colleen C. DiPirro

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2009

Richard D. Emery, Esq.

Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith

March 31, 2012

Paul B. Harding, Esq.

Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco

March 31, 2009

Marvin E. Jacob, Esq.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

March 31, 2010

Hon. Jill Konviser

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2010

Hon. Karen K. Peters

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2010

Hon. Terry Jane Ruderman

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2012

Vacancy

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2011

 

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NEWS RELEASE

May 14, 2008

 Contact:

Beth S. Bar, Public Information Officer

917-974-0914

bar@cjc.ny.gov

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct released its 2008 Annual Report today, online through its website.  www.scjc.state.ny.us.  The Commission is the state agency responsible for investigating complaints of misconduct against judges of the state unified court system and, where appropriate, disciplining such judges for violations of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.  The Report documents the Commission’s work in 2007. 

Highlights

bullet

1,711 complaints received – the most ever in a single year

bullet

413 preliminary inquiries conducted

bullet

192 new investigations authorized

bullet

275 pending matters carried forward from the previous year

bullet

238 matters pending at year’s end

bullet

27 public decisions rendered throughout the state:

> 5 Removals from office

> 10 Public Censures

> 9 Public Admonitions

> 3 public stipulations in which judges formally charged with misconduct agreed to leave the bench and not to seek judicial office in the future

bullet

9 other judges resigned in 2007 while under investigation

bullet

25 confidential cautionary letters were issued

bullet

Budget Increase.  In April 2007, for the first time in more than a generation, the Commission’s budget was significantly increased by the Legislature – from $2.8 million to $4.8 million a year – to cope with the growing workload.  Additional staff was phased in during the year, and the Commission’s office space was expanded to accommodate the new staff.  One result was that the Commission’s backlog of pending matters was cut by 14%.

1975-2007 Statistics

Since 1975, the Commission has received 37,534 complaints and conducted 7,070 investigations.  677 judges have been publicly disciplined for judicial misconduct, including 156 who were removed from office.  In addition, 1,322 have been confidentially cautioned, and 401 have resigned while under investigation or formal charges.

Observations and Recommendations

The Report addresses the following topics:

bullet Judicial compensation (pp. 20-22);
bullet Financial disclosure obligations (p.23); and
bullet Reference letters by judges (pp. 24-28).

Website & OFFICE ADDRESSES

The 2007 Annual Report and other information about the Commission is available at its website:  www.scjc.state.ny.us

The Commission’s offices are located at the following addresses:

61 Broadway

New York, New York 10006

 

Corning Tower, Suite 2301

Empire State Plaza

Albany, New York 12223

 

400 Andrews Street

Rochester, New York 14604

 

MEMBERS OF THE STATE COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT

Member

Appointing Authority

Term Expiration

 Hon. Thomas A. Klonick, Chair

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2009

 Stephen R. Coffey, Esq., Vice Chair

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno

March 31, 2011

Joseph W. Belluck, Esq.

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2012

Colleen C. DiPirro

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2009

Richard D. Emery, Esq.

Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith

March 31, 2012

Paul B. Harding, Esq.

Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco

March 31, 2009

Marvin E. Jacob, Esq.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

March 31, 2010

Hon. Jill Konviser

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2010

Hon. Karen K. Peters

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2010

Hon. Terry Jane Ruderman

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2012

Vacancy

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2011

 

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NEWS RELEASE

May 12, 2008

 Contact:

Robert Tembeckjian, Administrator: 212-809-0566 x333

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has issued a statement with respect to issues relevant to the compensation of judges in the State Unified Court System.  The Commission is the state agency responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and, where appropriate, determining that a judge should be publicly admonished, publicly censured or removed from office.

The Commission’s statement makes the following points.

1)   The Commission supports an increase in judicial salaries, which is “well deserved and long overdue.”

2)   The Commission makes no comment on the merits of pending litigation regarding judicial salaries.

3)   The Commission notes that:

A)     recent published reports suggest some judges are disqualifying themselves from cases involving law firms which include members of the State Legislature, for reasons relating to the compensation issue;

B)     the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics has announced constraints on such conduct;

C)     Advisory Committee opinions are presumptively binding on the Commission;

D)     various provisions of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which judges are obliged to observe and which the Commission enforces, are applicable to this situation; and

E)     it “would benefit neither the judiciary nor their justifiable interest in a fair compensation package for the Commission to be constrained to consider complaints against judges alleged to have violated these or other sections of the Rules in connection with the salary issue.”

The statement is incorporated in the Commission’s 2008 Annual Report, which will be available later this week on the Commission’s website at http://www.scjc.state.ny.us.

The Commission’s Administrator, Robert H. Tembeckjian, declined comment as to whether the conduct of any individual judges is under investigation.

 

 

MEMBERS OF THE STATE COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT

Member

Appointing Authority

Term Expiration

 Hon. Thomas A. Klonick, Chair

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2009

 Stephen R. Coffey, Esq., Vice Chair

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno

March 31, 2011

Joseph W. Belluck, Esq.

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2012

Colleen C. DiPirro

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2009

Richard D. Emery, Esq.

Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith

March 31, 2012

Paul B. Harding, Esq.

Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco

March 31, 2009

Marvin E. Jacob, Esq.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

March 31, 2010

Hon. Jill Konviser

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2010

Hon. Karen K. Peters

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2010

Hon. Terry Jane Ruderman

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2012

Vacancy

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2011

 

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NEWS RELEASE

April 10, 2008

 Contacts:

Robert Tembeckjian, Administrator: 212-809-0566 x333

 

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that Morris H. Lew, a Justice of the Farmington Town Court, Ontario County, should be censured.

 

In a determination dated March 26, 2008, the Commission found that Judge Lew engaged in ticket-fixing by dismissing a Speeding ticket for a friend’s wife in September 2005. 

 

As found by the Commission, after getting an e-mail about the ticket from his friend, who was then serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq, the judge arranged to have the ticket transferred to his calendar without notice to his co-judge or the trooper who had issued the ticket.  The judge then dismissed the ticket, although the defendant had never entered a plea or appeared in court.  Afterwards, the judge sent an e-mail to the defendant’s husband stating: “Please consider it a very small token of thanks for your efforts in uniform.”

 

The Commission concluded that the “extremely lenient disposition” imposed by the judge “was based not on the merits of her case, but on having the right ‘connections.’”  The Commission stated:  “This constitutes favoritism, and it is profoundly wrong.” 

 

In censuring Judge Lew, the Commission found that his judgment had been “clouded” by “his desire to make what he viewed as a patriotic gesture.”

 

The Commission’s Administrator had recommended the judge be removed, and two Commission members voted for removal.  See below, “The Commission Determination.”

 

The determination can be found at the Commission’s website:   www.scjc.state.ny.us  (On the home page, click on “Matter of Morris H. Lew.”)

 

The Commission Proceedings

 

Judge Lew was served with a formal written complaint dated December 6, 2006, and filed an answer dated December 26, 2006.  A hearing was held before a referee, Sherman F. Levey, Esq., on March 6, 2007, in Rochester.  The referee filed a report with the Commission dated November 29, 2007.  Oral argument was held on January 30, 2008. 

 

The Commission Determination

 

The Commission filed a determination dated March 26, 2008.  Six members concurred in the sanction of censure; two members, Richard D. Emery, Esq., and Honorable Jill Konviser, dissented as to the sanction and voted for removal.  Mr. Emery filed a dissenting opinion.  Two members, Commission Chair Raoul Lionel Felder, Esq., and Marvin E. Jacob, Esq., were not present.

 

Court of Appeals Review

 

The Commission transmitted its determination to the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, pursuant to Judiciary Law Section 44, subdivision 7. 

 

A judge may either accept the Commission’s determination or, within 30 days from the date he received the determination, make a written request to the Chief Judge for a review of the determination by the Court of Appeals.  Pursuant to Judiciary Law Section 44, subdivision 7, if Judge Lew does not request review by the Court of Appeals, the Commission will censure him in accordance with the determination. 

 

If the Commission’s determination is reviewed by the Court of Appeals, the Court may accept the determined sanction, impose a different sanction including admonition, censure or removal, or impose no sanction.

 

Statistics Relating to Prior Determinations

 

Since 1978, the Commission has censured 267 judges in New York State, 190 of them part-time judges.  (More than two-thirds of the judiciary in New York State are part-time.)  The Commission has issued a determination of removal as to 158 judges and admonished 221 judges.

 

The Court of Appeals has reviewed 85 Commission determinations.  The Court accepted the Commission’s sanctions in 71 cases.  Of the remaining 14 cases, two were increased from censure to removal, and twelve were reduced:  nine removal determinations were modified to censure, two censure determinations were modified to admonition, and one censure was rejected and the charges dismissed.

 

Counsel

 

In the proceedings before the Commission, Judge Lew appeared pro se.  Robert H. Tembeckjian, Esq., Administrator; John J. Postel, Esq., Deputy Administrator for the Commission’s Rochester office; and Stephanie A. Fix, Esq., Staff Attorney, served as counsel to the Commission.  Investigator Betsy J. Sampson assisted in the investigation.

 

Members of the Commission

 

The Commission members serve four-year terms.  A list of members is appended.

 

The Public File

 

The Commission's determination is attached.  The record of the proceedings upon which the determination is based is available for inspection during regular business hours at the Commission's three offices:

 

61 Broadway

New York, New York 10006

 

Corning Tower, Suite 2301

Empire State Plaza

Albany, New York 12223

 

400 Andrews Street

Rochester, New York 14604

 

MEMBERS OF THE STATE COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT

Member

Appointing Authority

Term Expiration

 Hon. Thomas A. Klonick, Chair

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2009

 Stephen R. Coffey, Esq., Vice Chair

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno

March 31, 2011

Joseph W. Belluck, Esq.

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2012

Colleen C. DiPirro

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2009

Richard D. Emery, Esq.

Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith

March 31, 2012

Paul B. Harding, Esq.

Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco

March 31, 2009

Marvin E. Jacob, Esq.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

March 31, 2010

Hon. Jill Konviser

Former Governor George E. Pataki

March 31, 2010

Hon. Karen K. Peters

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2010

Hon. Terry Jane Ruderman

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye

March 31, 2012

Vacancy

Governor David A. Paterson

March 31, 2011

 

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