Delegation resolution admonitions
November’s Throwbacks include a rare group judicial discipline: 25 years ago, in November 1992, 11 town court justices in New York were admonished for the same misconduct – improper delegation of bond decisions to the sheriff.
The 11 judges had signed a resolution passed by the Cayuga County Magistrates’ Association in February 1983 that authorized the county sheriff’s department to review and approve bail bonds presented by certified bondsman at the county jail and authorizing the sheriff to release the defendants on the judges’ behalf. In accordance with that authority, the sheriff had released approximately 74 defendants who had been committed to jail by the judges. After the defendants were released, the judges received the bail bonds from the sheriff’s department but, even though the bonds did not comply with statutory requirements, did not revoke bail, demand justifying affidavits, or take any other corrective action.
Emphasizing that, under state statutes, it was the judges’ responsibility to ensure that a bail bond assured that a defendant would return to court, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct stated that judicial duties cannot be delegated to jailers or other non-judicial officers. The Commission concluded that, by authorizing the sheriff’s department to perform a judicial function and permitting a jailer to release defendants on legally insufficient bonds, the judges had not been faithful to the law and had not diligently performed their judicial duties. New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct 1993 Annual Report, at 10. See, e.g., In the Matter of Lockwood, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 4, 1992) (judge permitted jailer to release 20 defendants on legally insufficient bail bonds).
For an additional discussion of “Improper delegation of adjudicative responsibilities,” see the article in the fall 2016 issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter. See also In the Matter of Hayes, Final judgment (Alabama Court of the Judiciary January 6, 2017) (delegating judicial authority to a private probation company in addition to other misconduct).