skip navigation


liibulletin-ny

In re Washington, 2003 N.Y. Int. 0112 (Oct. 21, 2003).

COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT - SANCTION - N.Y. CONSTITUTION, ART. VI, § 22 - JUDICIARY LAW § 44 - BACKLOG


ISSUE & DISPOSITION

Issue(s)

1. Whether the Commission on Judicial Conduct properly determined that removal from the position of City Court Judge was warranted when the judge in question had a significant backlog of cases, falsified quarterly reports, and was uncooperative with superiors in delegating responsibility.

2. Whether the Court of Appeals may consider evidence included in a motion for reconsideration when reviewing the decisions of the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Disposition

1. Yes. Where a judge filed untimely, incomplete and inaccurate quarterly reports, was unable to decide cases in a timely manner, and engaged in misconduct despite repeated administrative efforts to assist her, her removal from office is warranted.

2. Yes. So long as the motion for reconsideration was granted and the new evidence became part of the evidentiary record, the Court of Appeals may consider such evidence on appeal.

SUMMARY

After Petitioner, a part-time City Court Judge in White Plains, ignored a series of letters from the Commission on Judicial Conduct (the "Commission") requesting information about a decisional delay, the Commission commenced a hearing in December 2000. The Commission sustained charges against Petitioner and determined that removal was the appropriate sanction, as she had accumulated an unacceptable backlog of undecided cases, falsified quarterly reports, and disregarded admonishments from her superiors, including the Administrative Judge, to correct her behavior. Petitioner then sought reconsideration based on new evidence demonstrating that her conduct and judgment could have been affected by alcohol use and depression stemming from Petitioner's diabetes. Petitioner never raised the issue of her medical condition during the initial disciplinary proceeding. The Commission granted Petitioner's motion for reconsideration and subsequently affirmed its original determination. Petitioner then requested that the Court of Appeals review the matter, including the issue of her medical condition, and either reduce her sanction or remand the matter back to the Commission to reopen the hearing.

The Court of Appeals first determined that the evidence Petitioner presented to the Commission in her motion for reconsideration became part of the record, and therefore the Court could properly consider that evidence on review. The Court noted, however, that if the Commission had denied the motion for reconsideration, the Court could not consider the new evidence on appeal as it was not part of the record upon which the Commission had based its decision. Matter of Shaw, 96 N.Y.2d 7 (2001).

Second, the Court found unquestionably unacceptable delays in Petitioner's rendering of decisions. The Court found that several of Petitioner's cases had remained backlogged for over two years, and that in her quarterly reports during 1998, 1999, and 2000 she falsely represented the state of her case load and backlog. The Court, quoting Matter of Greenfield, 76 N.Y.2d 293, 298 (1990), said "'the more severe sanctions available to the Commission should only be deemed appropriate and necessary when the Judge has defied administrative directives or has attempted to subvert the system, by, for instance, falsifying, concealing, or persistently refusing to file records indicating delays.'" Finding that Petitioner had done all of the preceding, the Court found her "either unwilling or unable to discharge her judicial duties" and affirmed the sanction of removal from office. As to Petitioner's request that the Court remand the case back to the Commission, the Court stated that under the NY Constitution, Art. VI, § 22(d) and Judiciary Law § 44(9), their powers of review did not encompass requiring the Commission to reopen the hearing.


Prepared by the liibulletin-ny editorial board.