Honorable Roseanna H. Washington,
Judge of the White Plains City
Court, Westchester County,
For Review of a Determination of
State Commission on Judicial
2003 NY Int. 112
October 21, 2003
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before
publication in the New York Reports.
Submitted by Deborah A. Scalise, for petitioner. Robert H. Tembeckjian, for respondent.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct sustained two
charges of misconduct and determined that petitioner, a part-time
City Court Judge, should be removed from office ( see NY Const,
art VI, § 22; Judiciary Law § 44). Based upon our plenary review
of the evidence, we sustain the findings of misconduct and accept
the determined sanction of removal.
Petitioner was appointed a part-time Judge of the White
Plains City Court in January 1997. Her duties included presiding
over small claims cases on alternate Wednesdays and substituting
for the full-time Judge when necessary. Petitioner's caseload
was approximately 75 to 80 small claims cases per year. The
Commission's complaint alleged two charges of misconduct based on
petitioner's failure to render timely decisions despite repeated
direction to do so by the Ninth Judicial District Administrative
Judge; her submission of inaccurate and incomplete quarterly
reports of undecided cases; and her failure to provide prompt
responses to several Commission inquiries (see 22 NYCRR 100.1,
100.2[A], 100.3[B] and 100.3[C]).
Soon after assuming her judicial duties -- and despite
a small caseload typically requiring only brief written decisions
-- petitioner began to accumulate a backlog of undecided cases.
Sixty-seven of petitioner's cases were not decided in a timely
manner. When the cases were eventually decided, many had been
pending for extended periods of time, including 33 pending
between one and two years and seven pending for over two years.
An additional seven cases -- commenced between seven and 18
months prior to petitioner's hearing before the Commission --
were still pending as of the date of that hearing.
In the face of these delays, petitioner failed to
report several of the undecided cases as pending for longer than
60 days on her quarterly reports for 1998, 1999 and 2000 ( see 22
NYCRR 4.1). Petitioner's reports for the first three quarters of
1998 falsely stated that none of her cases remained undecided for
60 days or longer, when in truth there were several such cases in
each quarter. Her first quarterly report for 1999 also listed as
pending only a portion of the cases that were actually undecided
for at least 60 days, and indicated that nine of the cases would
be decided by July 21, 1999, but none were. The remaining three
quarterly reports for 1999 were each filed late -- in March 2000
-- listing most of the same cases as pending undecided, and the
final two reports failed to include several cases pending longer
than 60 days. Petitioner's quarterly reports for 2000 again
improperly omitted some pending cases; two of the reports stated
that decisions would be made by a date certain, but petitioner
failed to meet even her own deadlines.
This pattern of behavior persisted despite the repeated
efforts of the Administrative Judge. He wrote her several times
requesting the reports, reminding her that the delays were
totally unacceptable and urging her to resolve the cases
promptly. Additionally, he sent her correspondence from the
statewide Deputy Chief Administrative Judge stating that she
could be subject to Commission sanction if her errant behavior
continued, and correspondence from litigants seeking resolutions
of their cases. The Administrative Judge and his law clerk also
met twice with petitioner in order to discuss the undecided
matters. At the second meeting, in April 2000, they formulated a
plan whereby petitioner would reduce her backlog by deciding five
of her pending cases per week, but she failed to adhere to the
plan and her backlog continued.
In October 2000, the Commission initiated its inquiry
by letter to petitioner requesting information regarding a 16-
month delay in rendering a decision. Petitioner ignored the
Commission's letter -- and three follow-up letters -- until she
appeared before the Commission for a hearing in December 2000.
Subsequent to the hearing, petitioner, who at the time
represented herself, received another letter from the Commission
requesting additional information by a certain date, but did not
respond until approximately three and a half weeks after the time
After the Commission sustained the charges and
determined that the appropriate sanction was removal, petitioner
through counsel sought reconsideration based on new evidence.
The attorney introduced evidence that, after the hearing,
petitioner was examined by a psychologist, who opined that her
conduct and judgment could have been affected by alcohol use
possibly combined with depression, purportedly a common side-
effect of diabetes. Although petitioner was diagnosed with
diabetes prior to the hearing, she never raised the issue of her
medical condition during the disciplinary proceeding. The
Commission granted petitioner's motion for reconsideration and
adhered to its original determination.
Petitioner now asks us to consider the entire record
before the Commission, including the evidence introduced in her
motion for reconsideration, and reduce the sanction. In the
alternative, petitioner requests that the matter be remitted to
the Commission to reopen the hearing.
In Matter of Shaw (96 2 7 ), we determined
that we could not consider evidence submitted in support of a
motion to reconsider after the Commission itself declined
reconsideration ( see 96 NY2d at 13 n 3). Here, however, the
Commission granted petitioner's motion to reconsider, reviewed
the evidence submitted in support of the motion and adhered to
its original determination. Consequently, the evidence submitted
in support of the motion for reconsideration became part of the
record of the proceedings upon which the commission's
determination was based (NY Const, art VI, § 22[d]; Judiciary Law § 44), and thus, we may consider such evidence when
determining whether to accept or reject the Commission's
Petitioner clearly did not handle her cases in an
efficient or expeditious manner ( see 22 NYCRR 100.3[B]) and
did not cooperate with her supervisors in handling her judicial
responsibilities ( see 22 NYCRR 100.3[C]). Unquestionably,
delays in deciding pending cases should be addressed
administratively. Indeed, 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 ( see Matter of Greenfield, , 76 NY2d 293, 298 ). All
of these factors are present here, where petitioner filed late,
incomplete and false quarterly reports and maintained a
persistent backlog, with some delays of longer than two years.
Petitioner engaged in this conduct despite repeated
administrative efforts to assist her. Petitioner's conduct
demonstrated that she was either unwilling or unable to discharge
her judicial duties and, as a result, the Commission's determined
sanction of removal was warranted.
Accordingly, the determined sanction should be
accepted, without costs, and Roseanna H. Washington removed from
her office as Judge of the White Plains City Court.
2 This Court's powers of review are limited to reviewing
the legal and factual findings of the Commission, deciding
whether to accept or reject the Commission's sanction and, if the
sanction is rejected, deciding whether to impose a different
sanction or no sanction at all ( see NY Const, art VI, § 22[d];
Judiciary Law § 44).