Archive for the ‘Judge Disciplined’ Category

Contra Costa judge slapped for action in son’s case

August 1, 2013

A veteran Contra Costa County judge disciplined twice by a state legal watchdog agency has been publicly admonished for meddling in a case in which his son failed to comply with a court order that he perform volunteer service.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance said Tuesday that it had reprimanded Superior Court Judge Bruce Mills for “engaging in judicial misconduct” by having private conversations with court staffers on his son’s behalf. The panel voted 10-0, with another Contra Costa County judge on the panel abstaining.

The commission said it decided against more severe discipline, such as ordering Mills’ removal from the bench, because the judge “was acting as a concerned parent.”

The commission also said it had heard testimony from witnesses describing Mills as “hardworking, conscientious and fair.”

But the panel – made up of three judges appointed by the state Supreme Court, two attorneys named by the governor and six members of the public named by the governor, a state Senate committee and the Assembly speaker – revealed that this was not the first time Mills had been disciplined for using his position as a judge to bypass normal channels on behalf of his son.

Attorney ‘outraged’

In 2011, Mills received an “advisory letter” for allowing his son to accompany a police officer executing a search warrant the judge had signed “without going through the ordinary application process for going on a ride-along,” the commission said.

Mills’ attorney, James Murphy, said Wednesday that he is “outraged” by the commission’s decision and said the special masters – three judges who investigated the case and turned over their findings to the panel – had concluded that his client’s actions were improper but did not constitute misconduct.
“Judge Mills never requested any favors,” Murphy said. “I don’t think the judge obtained due process.”

The case that led to Mills’ reprimand began in October 2010 when his son, who was a juvenile, was cited for illegal possession of tobacco. He pleaded guilty to an infraction in March 2011 and was ordered to perform 20 hours of volunteer service, but did not complete the work after enrolling in an out-of-state treatment program, the commission said.

Clerk, judge visited

A hearing on the youth’s noncompliance was scheduled for October 2011 in the same Walnut Creek courthouse where his father worked.

On the day of the hearing, the commission said, Mills spoke with court clerk Jane Sims and later with Helen Peters, a temporary judge hearing the case, asking that his son’s out-of-state program count as credit for the volunteer work that he had been ordered to do.

The judge agreed and gave Mills’ son credit without holding a hearing, the commission said.
The judge’s private conversations on his son’s behalf “created an appearance of impropriety” and constituted “prejudicial misconduct,” the commission said.

The panel said the resolution “was not more lenient than likely would have occurred” if an attorney for Mills’ son had appeared in court before Peters.

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Contra Costa judge slapped for action in son’s case

Appellate justice is disciplined

July 2, 2013

For the first time in its 35-year history, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct has publicly disciplined an Appellate Division justice.

Nancy E. Smith, a justice of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, in Rochester reportedly used her position to try to get an early release of a man in prison for vehicular manslaughter.

Smith was admonished for sending an unsolicited letter of support on behalf of an inmate she had never met who was applying for parole, said Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian.

Admonishment is the mildest form of judicial discipline.

Smith has 30 days to accept or appeal the decision.

In its ruling released Friday, the commission said Smith’s actions were “inconsistent with well-established ethical standards prohibiting a judge from lending the prestige of judicial office to advance private interests,” Tembeckjian said. “This marks the first time the Commission has publicly disciplined an Appellate Division Justice, whose high rank should have made her especially sensitive to setting an example and obeying the ethics rules.”

The matter involved the case of Craig Cordes who was sentenced in May 2008 to up to 10 years in state prison after he was convicted of first-degree vehicular manslaughter. Cordes, who had just completed his second year in law school, was intoxicated when he smashed his boat into another on July 8, 2007, on Skaneateles Lake, killing two people.

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Appellate justice is disciplined

Sullivan Town Court Judge Resigns Over Tirade at Teenager

June 28, 2013

On several occasions during the summer of 2011, someone stole money from a farm stand that James P. Roman operated on his property in Madison County, N.Y. Convinced he had found the culprit that August, Mr. Roman, a justice of the nearby Sullivan Town Court, decided to take action, according to a complaint filed last year by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

What followed was an obscenity-ridden confrontation during which, according to the complaint, Mr. Roman pushed a 15-year-old boy to the ground, took his bike, threw it in the boy’s yard and threatened him with a baseball bat.

On Tuesday, the commission, the state agency that disciplines judges, announced that Mr. Roman had agreed to resign from his post. He also agreed never to seek or accept judicial office again.
Neither Mr. Roman nor his lawyer, Alan J. Pope, returned calls for comment on Tuesday.
Mr. Roman filed a response to the complaint in October 2012 in which he admitted using “harsh words and expletives,” damaging the boy’s bicycle and telling him to stay off his property. But he denied that he had pushed the boy off the bicycle or used a baseball bat “in a menacing manner.”
Robert H. Tembeckjian, administrator and counsel for the commission, said in a phone interview on Tuesday: “It is clearly improper for a judge who is obliged to uphold the law to act outside the courtroom in a manner that disrespects the law and takes disputes to such an extreme level. Mr. Roman recognized that in deciding to leave the bench.”

Full Article and Source:
Sullivan Town Court Judge Resigns Over Tirade at Teenager

Connecticut judge suspended 30 days for late decisions

June 20, 2013
A Connecticut state judge has been suspended for 30 business days after admitting being late in issuing child welfare rulings.

The suspension approved Wednesday by the state Judicial Review Council was the second discipline in four years against Judge E. Curtissa R. Cofield. She was also suspended for eight months in 2009 after being accused of drunken driving and using racial slurs while arguing with Glastonbury police.

Cofield apologized for her conduct Wednesday during a more than 30-minute speech before the council. She said she has done many good deeds including helping women get off drugs and prostitution.

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Connecticut judge suspended 30 days for late decisions

Missouri Supreme Court Suspends Associate Circuit Judge Barbara Peebles for Six Months Without Pay

March 31, 2013

A St. Louis judge has been suspended without pay for six months, according to a ruling issued Friday by the Missouri Supreme Court.

The unpaid suspension of Associate Circuit Judge Barbara Peebles begins Monday. She has been suspended with pay since August, when the Missouri Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline voted 5-1 to recommend her removal. The sixth member favored a six-month suspension.

The one-page order, issued by Chief Justice Richard B. Teitelman, said that the court found that Peebles “engaged in misconduct” but does not go into specifics.

The state commission had cited a series of reasons, including her abdication of duties to a clerk while on vacation in China and her destruction of a court document that complained about the clerk’s conduct.

She also was cited for starting court late, talking to a newspaper reporter about a pending case and a lack of credibility regarding the investigation.

Courthouse rumors in St. Louis had long speculated that the court would decline to follow the commission’s recommendation to remove Peebles, and that the high court would time its announcement for a day when the legislature was out of session to minimize any repercussions there.

Friday was Good Friday.

Full Article and Source:
Mo. Supreme Court Suspends St. Louis Judge for Six Months Without Pay

See Also:
Judge Barbara Peebles Response

Judicial Commission’s Report on Judge Barbara Peebles

Lokuta sues former judges over removal from bench

February 13, 2013

Deposed former Luzerne County Judge Ann H. Lokuta, silent for more than 15 months after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected her appeal, re-emerged with a vengeance Wednesday, firing a federal civil rights lawsuit at the colleagues and officials she said conspired to oust her from the bench.

Lokuta, the first woman to sit on the Luzerne County bench, filed the lawsuit in an attempt to reverse a state judicial discipline panel’s ruling four years ago that removed her from office, stripped her state-funded medical benefits, life insurance and vested pension, and precluded her from holding future judicial office. Lokuta, 59, also asked for unspecified monetary damages.

Lokuta and her attorneys, George A. Michak and Ronald V. Santora, reiterated in the lawsuit her long-held contention that former county president Judges Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan orchestrated her removal because she cooperated with federal investigators probing their pocketing of $2.8 million in payoffs from the backers of a pair of for-profit detention centers.

Lokuta claimed the former judges testified against her before the state Court of Judicial Discipline to punish her for continuing to speak to federal agents. The former judges, she said, used their influence over courthouse personnel to persuade more than two dozen other witnesses to substantiate allegations Lokuta showed up late for court, berated attorneys and court staff members and misappropriated county resources.

“Lokuta was subject to relentless intimidation and retaliation by (Conahan and Ciavarella), particularly Conahan, as they controlled the Luzerne County Courthouse as their private domain and crushed anyone who failed to follow their directives,” the lawsuit said.

Full Article & Source:
Lokuta sues former judges over removal from bench

See Also:
Lokuta’s Last Shot at Reinstatement

Disciplinary court moves against ex-judge

February 12, 2013

Although Willie Singletary resigned from Philadelphia Traffic Court in February following a scandal involving lewd photos, the state Court of Judicial Discipline formally ordered Thursday that he be removed from his former job. In October, the court issued an opinion stating that Singletary was subject to discipline for his conduct. After news broke late last year that Singletary allegedly showed photos of his genitals to a coworker, the state Supreme Court suspended him without pay in January. He resigned the next month. The Court of Judicial Discipline said it would take no further action against Singletary. – Robert Moran

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Disciplinary court moves against ex-judge

Fiduciary Watch: Public Admonishment of Judge Charles R. Brehmer

January 30, 2013

The Commission on Judicial Performance has publicly admonished Judge Charles R. Brehmer of the Kern County Superior Court.

The commission determined that Judge Brehmer should be publicly admonished for misconduct relating to the judge’s 2008 campaign for judicial office. Judge Brehmer violated the Political Reform Act (Act) by receiving cash contributions in excess of $100, failing to disclose the true source of a $15,000 loan to the campaign, failing to disclose $9,000 in contributions on a pre-election campaign statement, failing to timely file three semi-annual campaign statements, and failing to deposit the $15,000 campaign loan from his campaign treasurer into the campaign committee’s bank account and instead depositing it into his personal bank account.

The judge admitted three of the violations in a stipulation with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) wherein the judge also agreed to pay a $5,500 fine. The additional violations, not addressed in the FPPC stipulation, were found by the commission. The FPPC determined, and the commission concurs, that there was no evidence of any intent to conceal information from the public on the part of Judge Brehmer.

Full Article and Sourc:
Public Admonishment of Judge Charles R. Brehmer

Kent judge says ethics chief sabotaged Wulle’s re-election bid

January 15, 2013

A Kent-area judge disciplined in 2010 for trying to influence the Amanda Knox murder trial in Italy has accused the head of a state judicial ethics agency of misconduct, including sabotaging Clark County Judge John Wulle’s re-election bid.

In a Jan. 3 letter to the Washington Supreme Court, King County Superior Court Judge Michael Heavey accused Reiko Callner of violating her role as executive director of the Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct by spearheading an investigation of Wulle and then manipulating the media to help shatter Wulle’s re-election bid.

He said the behavior is part of pattern of Callner’s interference in due process for judges accused of misconduct.

“Commission powers have been usurped by Ms. Callner and have been wrongfully used to campaign against a sitting judge running for re-election,” Heavey wrote. “The members of the commission have acquiesced in this highly unprofessional action.”

Callner denied the accusations and said they appeared to be retaliation for the commission’s September 2010 discipline of him. Heavey was admonished for using his office to advocate for Knox, his daughter’s friend. He sent letters on Knox’s behalf written on his court stationery to judges in Italy and other officials, according to commission documents.

“Judge Heavey is on a kind of personal campaign against me,” Callner said Thursday in a phone interview with The Columbian.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Wulle said he wasn’t consulted about the complaint, but Heavey had asked his attorney, Josephine Townsend, about his case.

As executive director, Callner is not allowed to initiate investigations against judges. Only the commission — a panel of 11 members charged with investigating complaints against other judges — may initiate an investigation, and they must vote to do so. Judges, attorneys and citizens make up the panel.

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Kent judge says ethics chief sabotaged Wulle’s re-election bid

New York conduct commission votes to discipline three judges

January 9, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y., Dec 27 (Reuters) – The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended discipline for three judges, including one who took part in a profane exchange with a 17-year-old criminal defendant.

The commission on Thursday said Buffalo City Court Judge James McLeod should be admonished for his “crude and offensive manner” in speaking with the defendant, who was not named, in February 2011. McLeod made the comments after the defendant hurled obscenities at him, the commission said.

“Even in the face of provocative, disrespectful comments by a litigant, a judge is required to be an exemplar of decorum and dignity in the courtroom, and not allow the proceedings to devolve into an undignified exchange of taunts, insults and obscenities,” the commission wrote in its determination.
It said McLeod, who has been a judge since 1999, accepted “full responsibility” for the exchange. Admonishment is the mildest form of discipline the panel may recommend.

McLeod did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His attorney, Michael Mohun, was not available to comment.

The panel on Thursday also censured Erie County Family Court Judge Paul Buchanan and admonished Douglas Horton, the town justice in Mexico, Oswego County.

Buchanan in 2011 visited a 14-year-old girl in a Buffalo hospital while he was presiding over her juvenile delinquency case, the commission said. The girl had overdosed on prescription drugs in an apparent suicide attempt, and Buchanan brought her gifts and told her “she had a lot to live for,” the commission said.

Buchanan did not seek permission from the girl’s mother or attorney to visit her, and did not disclose the visit during court proceedings, the panel said. After one of the attorneys in the matter found out about the visit and protested, Buchanan transferred the case to another judge.

Section 100.3 of the state Rules Governing Judicial Conduct bars judges from having private conversations with litigants, which are known as ex parte communications.

Full Article & Source:
New York conduct commission votes to discipline three judges