Throwback Thursday

20 years ago this month:

  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a judge for 3 ex parte contacts with a defense attorney in a capital murder case. Public Admonishment of Maciel (California Commission on Judicial Performance December 1, 1997).
  • The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications publicly admonished a judge for releasing a defendant being held on his own recognizance without giving the prosecution a chance to be heard and making the unsubstantiated entry in the record that the release was due to the state’s failure to proceed. Admonition of Evrard (Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications December 31, 1997).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for an intemperate diatribe that included name-calling and dehumanizing remarks during pre-trial plea discussions in a case. In the Matter of Hannigan, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 17, 1997).
  • Pursuant to an agreed statement of facts and joint recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for attempting to coerce guilty pleas in traffic cases, failing to hold public court sessions as required by law, and a practice of receiving ex parte communications from police officers concerning the merits of traffic cases before him, including representations that the actual speed that defendants had been driving was greater than the speed charged. In the Matter of Westcott, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 17, 1997).
  • The New York Court of Appeals upheld the removal of a judge for displaying bias and improper demeanor in a number of cases, including commenting to his court clerk that “every woman needs a good pounding now and then” and stating to his clerk and another judge that he felt that orders of protection “were not worth anything because they are just a piece of paper,” were “a foolish and unnecessary thing,” and were “useless” and of “no value.” In the Matter of Roberts, 689 N.E.2d 911 (New York 1997).
  • The New York Court of Appeals publicly censured a judge for summarily disposing of 2 criminal cases without affording the prosecution the right to be heard, dismissing 1 charge as a favor to the defendant and his wife who were social acquaintances, and giving evasive and disingenuous testimony before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. In the Matter of Skinner, 690 N.E.2d 484 (New York 1997).
  • Based on a stipulation of facts, the North Carolina Supreme Court publicly censured a former judge for (1) making handwritten entries of “guilty” in the cases of 2 individuals who had indicated their intent to plead not guilty; (2) attempting to have a defendant plead guilty with the knowledge that the defendant was represented by counsel who was not present in court; (3) refusing to credit a defendant with jail time served as required by law; and (4) making statements and taking actions, in and out of court, that some could consider as less than patient, dignified, and courteous to attorneys, witnesses, litigants, and court personnel. In re Renfer, 493 S.E.2d 434 (North Carolina 1997)

 

Throwback Thursday

25 years ago this month:

  • Adopting the recommendation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission based on a stipulation, the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge who, during a hearing in open court, displayed a handgun and loaded it, questioned an unruly and threatening defendant, and then kept the loaded handgun in a zippered pouch on the bench. Inquiry Concerning Fleet, 610 So. 2d 1282 (Florida 1992).
  • Adopting the recommendations and findings of the Judicial Tenure Commission based on a stipulation and the judge’s consent, the Michigan Supreme Court publicly censured a judge who, after being denied access to a flight because he and his wife were not at the gate on time, was verbally abusive to the airline representative and grasped her braided hair when she turned to walk away, causing her head to jerk backwards. In the Matter of O’Brien, 494 N.W.2d 459 (Michigan 1992).
  • Adopting the recommendations and findings of the Judicial Tenure Commission based on a stipulation and the judge’s consent, the Michigan Supreme Court publicly censured a judge who made 7 harassing and obscene telephone calls to a man regarding the man’s relationship with the judge’s ex-wife and became involved in a verbal and physical altercation with the man in public. In the Matter of Thomas, 494 N.W.2d 458 (Michigan 1992).
  • Adopting in part the recommendation of the Judicial Hearing Board, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals publicly censured a judge who had appeared on a nation-wide television program, and discussed specific facts and issues of a child custody case in which he had presided when an appeal from his decisions was pending. In the Matter of Hey, 425 S.E.2d 221 (West Virginia 1992).

Throwback Thursday

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).

 

Throwback Thursday

5 years ago this month:

  • Based on a joint motion to resolve charges, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary reprimanded and censured a judge for failing to recuse himself from his son’s traffic violation case and dismissing the case. In the Matter of Durward, Reprimand and Censure (Alabama Court of the Judiciary November 21, 2012).
  • Based on the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Conduct and a stipulated resolution, the Arizona Supreme Court censured a former judge for accompanying his niece while she collected nominating petition signatures for a candidate and for speaking at a political meeting. In the Matter of Pearce, Order (Arizona Supreme Court November 26, 2012).
  • With the judge’s consent, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications publicly admonished a judge for assuming the role of the prosecutor when she attempted to negotiate a resolution to a defendant’s case after the defendant inquired about the status of his traffic infraction ticket and driver’s license suspension and for several ex parte conversations with the prosecutor about the same case. Public Admonition of Hagerty (Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications November 19, 2012).
  • Accepting an agreement for discipline by consent, the South Carolina Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for telling a defendant, “I’ll beat your ass if you call me a liar.” In the Matter of Martin, 734 S.E.2d 165 (South Carolina 2012).

 

Throwback Thursday

10 years ago this month:

  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a judge for approving a plea agreement that provided for the postponement of sentencing and release of the defendant on his own recognizance on condition he leave California and remain outside the state, a clear violation of case law and public policy. Public Admonishment of Iles (California Commission on Judicial Performance November 15, 2007) .
  • Based on the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission, the Louisiana Supreme Court removed a judge for (1) failing to schedule and conduct hearings in 2 matters filed by a consumer loan company; issuing judgments in favor of the plaintiff in both matters despite never conducting a hearing; failing to notify, provide for, or arrange service of process of the suits or of the judgments; and failing to communicate with the plaintiff regarding the suits; and (2) making contradictory and unsupported statements to and failing to cooperate with the Commission. In re Franklin, 969 So. 2d 591 (Louisiana 2007).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct removed a judge who had been convicted of tampering with the utility company meter measuring electricity to his home. In the Matter of Myles, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 1, 2007).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts and joint recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct censured a non-lawyer town court judge for failing for 6 years to adequately perform his administrative and supervisory duties, resulting in the careless handling of funds collected by the court.  In the Matter of Brooks, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 7, 2007).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts and joint recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct censured a non-lawyer judge for dismissing 2 charges against a defendant and reducing a third charge based on ex parte discussions with an Army recruiter and without notice to or the consent of the district attorney’s office. In the Matter of Ballagh, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 7, 2007).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct censured a judge for speaking ex parte to an arresting officer concerning a matter affecting a defendant’s credibility. In the Matter of Williams, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 13, 2007).
  • The Virginia Supreme Court removed a judge for (1) calling ex parte the hospital where a woman seeking a temporary protective order had been treated and twice directing the women to lower her pants in the courtroom so he could inspect the wound on her thigh and (2) in a separate case, twice tossing a coin in the courtroom to resolve a visitation dispute. Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission v. Shull, 651 S.E.2d 648 (Virginia 2007).

Throwback Thursday

20 years ago this month:

  • Accepting the determination of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the New York Court of Appeals removed a part-time judge who had been disbarred for conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, and deceit in his handling of an estate as a private attorney. In the Matter of Embser, 688 N.E.2d 238 (New York 1997).
  • Accepting a stipulation consenting to the findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order of the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Utah Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for presiding over a criminal proceeding in which he knew that his mother-in-law would likely be a material witness. Inquiry Concerning Herring (Utah Supreme Court November 17, 1997).

 

Throwback Thursday

25 years ago this month:

  • In a public letter, the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission admonished a judge for directing 3 teenagers into a police station to be charged with disorderly conduct after he observed 2 of them making an obscene gesture in front of a slain police officers’ memorial while the third took their picture; directing the police department to seize the camera and develop the film; presiding at their criminal trial; and then directing that they perform community service. Letter to Watt (Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission November 24, 1992).
  • In a public letter, the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission admonished a judge for, during a court hearing, reaching across and grabbing a pack of cigarettes rolled in the sleeve of a litigant’s t-shirt, tearing the sleeve, and using inappropriate language toward the litigant. Letter to Hodnett (Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission November 24, 1992).
  • Accepting the determination of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the New York Court of Appeals removed a judge from office for continuing to act as a fiduciary in several estates after becoming a judge, continuing to perform business or legal services for clients, and maintaining a business and financial relationship with his former law firm, which had an active practice before his court. In the Matter of Moynihan, 604 N.E.2d 136 (New York 1992).
  • Pursuant to an agreed statement of facts, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct admonished a judge for failing to fully review bail bonds presented to him and, as a result, approving bail bonds presented by someone who was not authorized to do so and ordering the release of defendants on bonds that could not be used to secure their appearance in court. In the Matter of Corning, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 4, 1992).