Throwback Thursday

10 years ago this month:

  • Based on a stipulation of facts and waiver of hearing, the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities released its private reprimand of a judge for officiating the marriage of the victim and the defendant in a domestic violence case and, after dismissing the case based on marital privilege, stating to the defendant, “I earlier today sentenced you to life — marriage to her.”  In the Matter of Russell, Private Reprimand (Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities January 10, 2011).
  • Pursuant an agreement, stipulation of facts, and waiver of hearing, the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities made public its private reprimand of a judge for driving while intoxicated and being involved in an automobile accident; the judge also agreed to comply with the conditions of a deferred discipline agreement.  In the Matter of Boone, Private Reprimand (Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities January 17, 2011).
  • Affirming the decision of the Commission on Judicial Discipline, the Nevada Supreme Court removed a former judge from office for (1) sleeping during trials; (2) ex parte contacts with deliberating juries in 2 cases, making improper public comments to the media while one of the cases was pending, and making false statements to the media in a post-trial interview; (3) using obscene terms to refer to employees in the presence of her bailiff; giving the bailiff $20 and telling him to “go play with the other bailiffs;” and requiring him to massage her feet, neck, and shoulders; (4) yelling at employees and using foul language in the presence of her assistant; (5) allowing 2 unauthorized individuals to gain access to the courthouse to serve as her body guards or security officers; (6) making false statements to a news reporter; and (7) prohibiting the chief judge from communicating with her except through her attorney, refusing to communicate or cooperate with the court administrator when he attempted to retrieve a rolodex from her office, and telling the police that “unauthorized personnel” were attempting to access her chambers.  In the Matter of Halverson, 373 P.3d 925 (Nevada 2011). 
  • Adopting the findings and recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, the New Jersey Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former judge for failing to report his consensual, dating relationship with a bailiff he supervised, as required by court policy.  In the Matter of Campbell, 10 A.3d 1201 (New Jersey 2011).
  • Based on an agreed statement of fact and joint recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a non-lawyer judge for intervening in an impending proceeding involving a hunter who trespassed on his son’s property, asking the investigating department of environmental conservation officer to make the ticket be returnable before him, presiding over the arraignment and accepting the hunter’s guilty plea, and sending his co-judge an ex parte letter about the case.  In the Matter of Allen, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct January 4, 2011).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct removed a non-lawyer judge for failing to deposit and remit court funds in a timely manner, filing reports with the State Comptroller that falsely and/or inaccurately stated the amounts collected, and engaging in impropriety with respect to traffic violations with which she was charged.  In the Matter of Halstead, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct January 27, 2011).
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Judicial Discipline removing a judge for (1) being habitually and egregiously late for court and frequently absent from the courthouse; (2) being impatient, undignified, and discourteous to court staff and hindering and obstructing the administrative responsibilities of other judges and court officials; (3) repeatedly engaging in lengthy recitations of her displeasure with the president judge on the record; (4) causing a commotion outside of a courtroom and, in a letter to the president judge, falsely claiming that a deputy court administrator had caused the incident; (5) ignoring directives of the president judge to report vacation and sick days of her staff, to provide copies of attendance reports for her employees, and to obtain approval for appointments of personnel; (6) consistently handling fewer cases and disposing of cases more slowly than other judges; (7) using a court employee to do personal work; and (8) instructing her law clerk to “cut [the plaintiff’s lawyer] a new as***le” in an opinion and, in a second case, to draft an opinion in favor of the plaintiffs because they had supported her politically and failing to disqualify from those cases.  In re Lokuta, 11 A.3d 427 (Pennsylvania 2011).

Recent cases

  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for failing to rule for approximately 3 months on a contested order of protection and periodically filing certifications that he had no pending or undetermined cause for more than 60 days.  Guzman, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct November 17, 2020).
  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for (1) stating that he would “keep” a defendant who had not appeared for trial after issuing a warrant for his arrest; (2) keeping campaign materials in his judicial office and distributing nail files that stated “Bruce Staggs – Justice of the Peace, Benson JP Court” during court hours; (3) in a minute order, stating, “The Mormon’s [sic] the Court are [sic] associated with are good people that live up to their responsibilities;” (4) discussing a social medial post that criticized him in a minute order; (5) referring to female employees with the generic term of “woman” and telling a female employee “you’re unzipped,” in reference to the zippers on the ankle/calf of her pants and then commenting that he “wondered if he would get the same reaction if he were unzipped.”  Staggs, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct November 17, 2020).
  • Based on a stipulation and conditioned on the former judge’s agreement not to serve in a judicial capacity in the future, the California Commission on Judicial Performance severely admonished a former judge for his continuing failure to disclose his personal relationship with an attorney even after being publicly admonished for failing to do so in 2019; his lack of candor in 2 responses to the Commission; and his discourtesy to the district attorney in 1 case.  In the Matter Concerning Mason, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance December 9, 2020).
  • Agreeing with the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Discipline based on a stipulation and agreement, the Colorado Supreme Court publicly censured a former judge based on his guilty plea to federal charges related to his disclosure of non-public, confidential information to his friends while serving as a magistrate and judge.  In the Matter of Kamada (Colorado Supreme Court December 7, 2020).
  • Based on his agreement not to seek judicial office in the future, the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission disposed of a complaint that a judge had engaged in behavior towards employees that constituted harassment based on gender and/or sex.  In re Jordan, Report of disposition (Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission December 11, 2020).
  • Approving a statement of circumstances and conditional agreement for discipline, the Indiana Supreme Court permanently barred a former magistrate from judicial service based on his guilty plea to possession of methamphetamine and resisting arrest; the Court also suspended the former magistrate from the practice of law for 1 year with the first 90 days served as an active suspension and the balance stayed subject to his successful completion of at least 2 years of probation.  In the Matter of Greenaway (Indiana Supreme Court December 4, 2020).
  • Affirming the decision of the Judicial Conduct Commission, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the removal of a judge for (1) coercing members of her guardian ad litem panel to donate the maximum amount to her campaign and to use personal time to campaign on her behalf; using court staff to work on her campaign during work hours; and taking steps to conceal HER conduct; (2) retaliating against an attorney for failing to campaign on her behalf by removing him from the guardian ad litem panel following the election;(3) forcing her case manager to resign to create a job opening for Stephen Penrose because she and Penrose were engaged in a personal, sexual relationship, not on the basis of merit; engaging in inappropriate workplace behavior with Penrose during work hours; and improperly delegating judicial functions to Penrose; (4) approving timesheets for staff members that she knew did not accurately reflect the hours those employees worked; leaving the courthouse on numerous occasions with staff members during regular court hours; permitting Penrose to play his guitar and sing in his office during work hours; and permitting staff member to store and consume alcoholic beverages in court offices; (5) directing school liaison officers to file school dependency, neglect, and abuse cases only once a month and to file certain petitions as truancy cases rather than dependency, neglect, and abuse cases, and, when one of those officers followed her employer’s instructions regarding how to file such cases, retaliating against her, referring to her as a “b***h,” and refusing to recuse from her cases; (6) making inappropriate sexual advances toward an attorney, sending one of her guardian ad litem panel attorneys to speak with the attorney, refusing to recuse from cases in which the attorney represented a party, and engaging in Snapchat conversations with members of her guardian ad litem panel and Penrose, some of which were sexual in nature; (7) appointing personal friends who supported her campaign to represent individuals seeking de facto custodian status without requiring those individuals to come to court to receive appointments; (8) failing to be candid and honest with the Commission regarding the termination of her case manager, the removal of the attorney from the guardian ad litem panel, and her relationship with Penrose; and (9) filing a bar complaint against an attorney in retaliation for her cooperation with the Commission investigation.  Gentry v. Judicial Conduct Commission (Kentucky Supreme Court December 17, 2020).
  • Affirming the Judicial Conduct Commission’s finding of fact, conclusions of law, and final order, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the public reprimand of a former judge for intervening on behalf of her ex-husband after he was arrested and for sending an ex parte text to a Commission member just before her hearing.  Maze v. Judicial Conduct Commission (Kentucky Supreme Court December 17, 2020).
  • The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the Commission on Judicial Discipline’s admonishment of a hearing master for ignoring an attorney’s objections to her questioning of a juvenile defendant, yelling repeatedly at the attorney, preventing the attorney from making a record, threatening to report the attorney, and attempting to pressure the minor into answering her questions directly; the Commission had also ordered the hearing master to complete additional education.  In the Matter of Henry (Nevada Supreme Court December 23, 2020).
  • Accepting an agreed statement of facts and recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for publicly supporting the teachers at her daughter’s school in litigation against the board of education by publicly commenting about issues and individuals involved in the litigation in person, by email, and on social media platforms in which she was publicly identified as a judge; providing legal information and advice to parents at the school; signing advocacy letters; speaking about the cases with members of the board of education; joining teacher union counsel outside the courtroom prior to a case conference; and executing an affidavit that was filed in the litigation.  In the Matter of Panepinto, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 9, 2020)
  • Adopting the findings of the Judicial Standards Commission, the North Carolina Supreme Court publicly censured a court of appeals judge for contributing to, enabling, and ignoring the toxic work environment in his chambers created by his executive assistant/law clerk, who was his close personal friend, and displaying a reckless disregard for the truth and downplaying the seriousness of his friend’s misconduct to the Commission and the administrative office of the courts.  In re Inquiry Concerning Murphy (North Carolina Supreme Court December 18, 2020).
  • Adopting the findings and recommendation of the Judicial Standards Commission, which were based on a stipulation of facts, the North Carolina Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for knowingly proceeding with a defendant’s probable cause hearing without the defendant’s counsel present to “make a point” about the lawyer’s failure to appear in court at the time the judge had directed.  In re Inquiry Concerning Clontz (North Carolina Supreme Court December 18, 2020).
  • Adopting the findings of the Board of Professional Conduct, which were based on stipulations and evidence presented at a hearing, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended a former magistrate from the practice of law for 6 months for summarily holding a woman who screamed in the hallway outside his courtroom in contempt, and, when she protested, increasing her jail sentence to 10 days.  Disciplinary Counsel v. Bachman (Ohio Supreme Court December 18, 2020).
  • With the judge’s acceptance, the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for “conducting judicial business outside the parameters of the COVID-19” plan for his judicial district as approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court and commenting to a court audience that he “wished Chief Justice Jeff Bivens would win an award so that the COVID-19 mandates” would end.  Hinson (Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct December 15, 2020).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned a judge for allowing a PAC to use his name, title, and likeness in materials that supported the campaigns of other Democratic candidates for public office as well as his own.  Public Warning of Molberg (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 3, 2020), on appeal to special court of review.
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a former judge for (1) during a public meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court, wearing a pink knitted beanie with cat ears referred to as a “pussy hat” and (2) during a panel at the Texas Tribune Festival, stating that Governor Abbott, who is paralyzed from the waist down, “hates trees because one fell on him.”  Public Admonition of Eckhard (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 4, 2020), on appeal to special court of review.
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned a judge for publicly endorsing a candidate for county tax assessor-collector.  Public Warning of Cox (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 4, 2020).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for using the English and Spanish slurs for undocumented immigrants from Mexico in a conversation with his court reporter; the Commission also ordered the judge to obtain 2 hours of additional instruction with a mentor.  Public Admonition of Luitjen (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 4, 2020).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for initiating and permitting ex parte communications with the district attorney’s office about the merits of a defendant’s motion for a new trial in a criminal case.  Public Admonition of Luitjen (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 4, 2020).
  • Based on stipulated facts and conclusions of law, the Vermont Judicial Conduct Board publicly reprimanded a judge for leveraging his position as a part-time probate judge to gain an advantage for a client with a matter pending in his court’s criminal division and attempting to do so for a second client.  In re Cobb, Stipulated public reprimand with order (Vermont Judicial Conduct Board December 24, 2020).

Throwback Thursday

20 years ago this month:

  • The Arizona Supreme Court removed a judge from office for falling asleep during court proceedings; making inappropriate comments and circulating inappropriate materials, some of which were racist, sexist, or obscene; ex parte communications; failing to recuse and otherwise creating an appearance of bias; inappropriate uses of his judicial position; failing to respect the rights of parties appearing before him; failing to adequately perform his judicial responsibilities; and misrepresenting facts to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.  In the Matter of Carpenter, 17 P.3d 91 (Arizona 2001).
  • The Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission publicly admonished a judge following his conviction for driving while intoxicated.  Letter of Admonition to Jennings (Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission January 23, 2001).
  • The Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission publicly admonished a judge for delay in ruling on a petition for post-trial review filed by an inmate and for failing to properly supervise staff.  Letter of Admonition to Davis (Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission January 26, 2001).
  • Accepting the recommendation of the Judicial Tenure Commission, the Michigan Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for engaging in self-dealing contrary to the interests of his clients when he was an attorney and failing to file a timely answer to the formal complaint.  In re Runco, 620 N.W.2d 844 (Michigan 2001).
  • Based on an agreement, the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards publicly reprimanded a judge for failing to maintain an impartial demeanor in a case, making undignified and discourteous public references to lawyers serving as public defenders and in other capacities in the case, and publicly commenting on the pending matter.  Public Reprimand of Wolf (Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards January 10, 2001).
  • The New Jersey Supreme Court removed a municipal court judge for (1) signing a letter “JMC” (meaning “judge municipal court”) in a personal dispute regarding payment of his sons’ tuition at a private school; (2) failing to recuse from a case arising from questionable domestic violence complaints filed by a councilman with whom the judge had a close relationship; and (3) filing false accusations against his son’s teacher and then arraigning the teacher.  In the Matter of Samay, 764 A.2d 398 (New Jersey 2001).

Crimes and schemes: Top stories of 2020

In 2020, criminal proceedings were followed by discipline proceedings for 9 former judicial officers based on acts committed while they were still on the bench and, in most cases, related to their judicial duties.

Bonding scheme
In West Virginia, 2 former magistrates were sanctioned for their scheme to ensure that bonds for defendants arraigned by one of the magistrates were posted by a bonding company owned by the wife of the other magistrate.  In the Matter of Clem, Order (West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals January 30, 2020); In the Matter of Skinner, Order (West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals January 30, 2020).  Based on their agreements and the recommendation of the Judicial Hearing Board, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals publicly censured them, barred them from serving in public office again, and fined them $1,000 each.

Before their resignations, Alton Skinner and Roger Clem were magistrates in adjoining counties.  The bonding company E-Z Out was operated by Skinner’s spouse and employed Skinner’s son as an authorized bonding agent.  Skinner was also involved in the operation of E-Z Out.

From March 2017 to March 2018, then-magistrate Clem did not present a list of authorized bail bonding companies to defendants at arraignments.  Instead, approximately 200 times, soon after an arraignment, he called E-Z Out, usually to Skinner’s cell phone, and Skinner would ensure that an E-Z Out agent was at the courthouse to post the bonds.

Both magistrates had been indicted for the same scheme by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, and obstruction.  The charges were dismissed after the U.S. Attorney agreed not to prosecute conditioned on their resignations and admissions in the discipline proceedings.

Information disclosure
Agreeing with the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Discipline based on a stipulation and agreement, the Colorado Supreme Court publicly censured a former judge based on his guilty plea to federal charges and “a pattern of disclosing nonpublic, confidential information to his friends” while serving as a magistrate and later as a district judge.  In the Matter of Kamada (Colorado Supreme Court December 7, 2020).  The Court explained that removal from office would have been the appropriate sanction if the judge had not resigned in August 2019.  The former judge has also been disbarred after conditionally admitting to misconduct as an attorney.

In June 2020, the judge pled guilty to obstructing the proceedings of a federal agency; his sentencing is scheduled for February 2021.  The charges are described in a press release from the U.S. Attorney announcing the judge’s guilty plea.

According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, beginning in or around October 2018, a federal task force was investigating a drug trafficking organization that was distributing large quantities of cocaine throughout northern Colorado.  One of the members of the organization was a drug trafficker who lived in Greeley, Colorado.  Kamada had known the drug trafficker since high school. . . .

While serving as the “on call” judge one evening in April 2019, Kamada received a phone call from a task force officer who was seeking a search warrant related to the investigation into the drug trafficker.  The task force officer pointed out to Kamada that he was associated with the drug trafficker on social media.  As a result, Kamada recused himself from the case.  But early the next morning, Kamada called his best friend, Geoffrey Chacon, who had also known the drug trafficker since childhood.  Kamada told Chacon that law enforcement was “watching” the drug trafficker’s house, car and phone, and instructed Chacon to “stay away” from the drug trafficker.  Chacon subsequently informed the drug trafficker about the warrant and modified Chacon’s own behavior in order to avoid law enforcement attention.

The information that Chacon provided to the drug trafficker also caused the drug trafficker to change his pattern of conduct and substantially interfered with the task force’s investigation.  After Chacon relayed the information that he received from the judge to the drug trafficker, Chacon destroyed records of his communications with the drug trafficker in order to impair efforts by law enforcement to tie Chacon to the drug trafficker.  In November 2019, Chacon pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of destruction of records with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation.

In its order, the Court describes several other times the judge inappropriately disclosed information to Chacon.

In January 2019, during his first month as a district court judge, in a text to Chacon and another friend, the judge declared that the wife in a divorce proceeding “would be ‘free game tomorrow night’ and that the husband was keeping the family’s Mercedes.”  “In another matter, he sent his friends a photo of a father and child involved in a parenting dispute, commenting ‘check out the dad in my trial today.’”

On one occasion, Chacon asked the judge to get him information about a person being taken into custody by the FBI.  The judge searched Colorado court records and, when he could not find the case, suggested to Chacon that it was likely a federal matter.

In January 2019, Chacon texted the judge that a mutual friend (the drug trafficker referred to in the criminal charges) had been in an altercation with another drug dealer, commenting that the other dealer was “high on coke.”  The judge replied that the friend needed to “grow up” if he wanted “to play big boy stuff.”

Phony and baseless
Based on the decision and recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board, the New Jersey Supreme Court disbarred a former judge based on his guilty plea to 1 count of falsifying records.  In the Matter of Thompson, Order (New Jersey Supreme Court January 16, 2020).  In his plea allocution in state court, the former judge had admitted that, while serving as a municipal court judge in 9 jurisdictions, he had routinely suspended mandatory motor vehicle fines, which would have been divided between the towns and the county, and substituted “phony, baseless contempt of court charges” to ensure that 100% of the fines would go to the towns.  The judge admitted that “to conceal his wrongdoing, he typically falsified the contempt charges outside of the presence of the defendants and their counsel.”  The judge’s scheme was successful; according to the prosecution, it had diverted $600,000 to the towns from the county in approximately 4,000 cases between 2010 and 2015.  Finally, the judge admitted that he continued his scheme even after discussing his practice with his superiors; after the meeting, he began assessing smaller phony contempt fines, but he continued to steer funds to his preferred jurisdictions until he was suspended from the bench.

Kickback scheme
The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline removed a former judge from office and barred him from further judicial service based on his guilty plea to federal charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and extortion under color of official right.  In re Waltman, Opinion and order (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline May 6, 2020).  In a press release, the U.S. Attorney described the judge’s crimes:

Together with his co-defendants . . . , Bernard Rafferty and Robert Hoopes, Waltman participated in a scheme to extort bribes and kickbacks from Bucks County businessmen.  They also conspired to launder money for individuals they believed were engaged in narcotics trafficking and health care fraud. 

For example, in November 2016, Waltman, Hoopes, and Rafferty accepted a bribe of $1,000, as well as the promise of other fees, in exchange for Waltman, Hoopes, and Rafferty to use their positions as public officials to “fix” a traffic case before Waltman in Bucks County Magisterial District Court.

In addition, from June 2015 to November 2016, Waltman, Hoopes, and Rafferty conspired to launder funds represented to be proceeds from health care fraud, illegal drug trafficking, and bank fraud.  From June 2016 to August 2016, Waltman, Hoopes, and Rafferty laundered $400,000 in cash, represented to be proceeds from health care fraud and illegal drug trafficking, and took money laundering fees totaling $80,000 in cash.

Scheme to defraud
Based on its findings of misconduct, the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline removed a former judge from office and banned him from serving in office again based on (1) his guilty plea to federal charges of mail fraud and filing a false personal income tax return and (2) his conviction on federal perjury charges.  In re Mulgrew (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline May 6, 2020).

(1) In August 2012, the judge was indicted on 33 federal counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax-related crimes based on a scheme to misuse state grant funds awarded to non-profit groups.  In September 2013, he pled guilty to 1 count of mail fraud and 1 count of filing a false personal income tax return.  In August 2014, he was sentenced to 30 months of incarceration and 3 years of probation and ordered to pay $199,000 in restitution and $123,000 in back taxes.  The U.S. Attorney’s press release described his crimes:

Between 1996 and 2008, the [Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development] awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to two community groups with which Mulgrew and [co-defendant Lorraine] Dispaldo were associated.  DCED awarded more than $450,000 in grants to the Friends of Dickinson Square (“FDS”) with the understanding that the grants were to be used to purchase equipment and materials for the maintenance of Dickinson Square Park at 4th & Tasker Streets, Philadelphia, and surrounding neighborhood revitalization.  Mulgrew, the Vice-President of FDS, signed the FDS grant contracts with DCED.  DCED also awarded approximately $397,000 in grants to the Community to Police Communications (“CPC”) with the understanding that the grants were to be used to purchase communications equipment for the police and to purchase materials to secure vacant lots and buildings for the protection of the police.  Dispaldo signed the CPC grant contracts with DCED.

The defendants misrepresented their intentions to DCED, and — contrary to their agreement to spend grant funds solely to purchase equipment and materials for neighborhood revitalization and improved communications with the police — the defendants used thousands of grant dollars to pay Mulgrew’s relatives and associates.  They represented that they were paying for work done on behalf of FDS and CPC.  After distributing grant funds to relatives and associates, the defendants supplied false and misleading information to DCED to conceal the actual amount of grant funds which they paid to the relatives and associates contrary to the express purposes of the grant.

Mulgrew conceded that he received almost $70,000 in grant funds for his own personal uses.  Mulgrew improperly reimbursed himself from FDS funds for thousands of dollars of expenditures which he claimed were incurred by FDS when they were not and for his expenditures for items not authorized under the terms of the FDS grants.  Mulgrew and Dispaldo supplied DCED with false documents to conceal their own use of grant funds and other improper uses of the funds. 

Mulgrew did not report the additional income from the fraud scheme on his tax return and claimed false business deductions which improperly reduced his tax liability.  

(2) In January 2013, Mulgrew was one of 9 judges indicted on wire fraud, mail fraud, and perjury charges related to ticket-fixing on the Philadelphia Traffic Court, described by the U.S. Attorney as “a widespread culture of giving breaks on traffic citations to friends, family, the politically-connected, and business associates.”  In July 2014, a jury convicted the judge of 1 count of perjury before the federal grand jury.  He appealed.  His conviction was affirmed in January 2019.  

Personal conduct
A former magistrate pled guilty to misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine and resisting arrest and was permanently barred from judicial service by the Indiana Supreme Court.  In the Matter of Greenaway (Indiana Supreme Court December 4, 2020).  The Court also suspended him from the practice of law for 1 year with the first 90 days as an active suspension and the balance stayed subject to at least 2 years of probation.  According to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, in March 2019, the judge was arrested as part of an Indiana State Police sting operation after he bought 2.5 grams of meth from an undercover informant in a parking lot.  During the arrest, he “put the bag of meth in his mouth and bit an officer’s hand as the officer tried to pry his mouth open, according to court documents.”  He was charged with possession of methamphetamine, resisting arrest, and obstruction of justice, all felonies.  He pled guilty in September 2020.

Accepting a stipulation based on the judge’s resignation and agreement not to seek or accept judicial office, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded a proceeding against a former judge who had pled guilty to state charges of attempted burglary in the second degree, a felony.  In the Matter of Cicale, Decision and order (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 2, 2020).  According to Newsday, Cicale admitted entering the home of a 23-year-old former intern at the town attorney’s office where he used to work and taking articles of her clothing.  His attorney told the newspaper that the former judge “has dealt with his mental illness issues in a proactive manner and is a better person for doing so.”

Accepting a stipulation based on the judge’s resignation and agreement not to seek or accept judicial office, the New York Commission concluded a proceeding against a former judge who had pled guilty to federal tax evasion charges.  In the Matter of Seedorf, Decision and order (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct April 2, 2020).  According to the Journal News, Seedorf did not file income tax returns from 2005 to 2015 and owed more than $487,000, including interest and penalties.

Throwback Thursday

25 years ago this month:

  • Based on the recommendation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for colliding with a dock while operating a motorboat and leaving the scene without reporting the accident.  Inquiry Concerning Fletcher, 666 So. 2d 137 (Florida 1996).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct removed a judge for failing to remit court funds to the state comptroller by the tenth day of the month following collection as required by state law and failing to cooperate in the Commission’s investigation.  In the Matter of Miller, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct January 19, 1996).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for refusing to appoint an interpreter for a defendant who did not speak English as required by law and making remarks about the defendant and other Spanish-speaking farm workers that gave the appearance of ethnic bias.  In the Matter of Carr, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct January 22, 1996).

Other available options

Accepting the findings and recommendation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission based on stipulations, the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for yelling and waving his arms at people in the lobby outside his courtroom to get them be quiet and threatening one of them with contempt.  Inquiry Concerning Miller (Florida Supreme Court November 5, 2020).

On January 17, 2020, proceedings in a civil trial over which the judge was presiding were interrupted continuously by loud noise from the public lobby outside of the courtroom.  The noise “was a result of many people congregating and not promptly disbursing” after another judge’s investiture, which had taken place in the ceremonial courtroom on the same floor.

At Judge Miller’s request, the bailiff and then the clerk and bailiff tried to quiet the people in the lobby.  When those attempts were unsuccessful, the judge stepped down from the bench wearing his robe and went to the lobby accompanied by his bailiff.  Several witnesses, including judges and lawyers, observed the judge “’yelling,’ and waving his arms at the people in the lobby while trying to get them [to] be quiet. . . .”

The judge observed a woman shaking her head while looking at him.  Believing she was indicating that she would not cooperate with his attempt to quiet the crowd and “responding to what he believed was contemptuous behavior,” the judge approached the woman and shouted, “Do not shake your head at me” and twice threatened her with contempt, demanding to know, “Do you want to be held in contempt?”  The judge asked her name and whether she was employed in the courthouse.  He then went back into his courtroom.

The woman, who is an assistant general counsel for the court, did not yell, say anything disrespectful, or act contemptuously in any way, according to 2 judges who were talking with her at the time.  Judge Miller acknowledged that “with hindsight she could have been shaking her head in disbelief over his behavior.”

The Court noted that the Commission had recognized that “[j]udges are given tools for dealing with serious interruptions,” to court proceedings including, “the direct (or summary) contempt power . . . .”  But the Commission was “particularly disturbed by” the judge’s threat to use that contempt power against a woman merely “for shaking her head in disbelief over Judge Miller’s behavior.”  The Commission explained:  “Judge Miller had other options available for dealing with the disruption to his trial, such as taking a recess, or calling Court Administration to ask for assistance.  The method he ultimately chose to employ reflected poorly on himself, and the judiciary as a whole.”

The Court felt “constrained to observe that . . .  this case arose only because a loud crowd disrupted trial court proceedings and persisted in their noisemaking after extended efforts were made to bring quiet so that the trial could go on.”  The Court acknowledged that the interruption did not excuse the judge’s conduct but emphasized that “the lengthy disruption of that trial should never have occurred.  Investiture ceremonies are significant events in the life of our courts, but they should not occasion the disruption of judicial business.”  It noted that “the participation of judges or court staff in any such disruption . . . is a matter of serious concern” and directed that administrative measures “be taken to ensure that such problems do not recur.”