November 21, 2007
The Commission of Judicial Conduct has determined that two upstate town justices should be censured, the New York Law Journal reports.
It found that Donald W. Ballagh of Rose, Wayne County, dismissed two charges, including a driving while intoxicated charge, and reduced a third, without giving the district attorney an opportunity to be heard, as is required by state law. The justice acted after the defendant told him that an alcohol-related conviction would delay his enlistment in the U.S. Army, and he had an out-of-court discussion with a recruiter about the case. The commission noted that Justice Ballagh has promised not to repeat such conduct (See Matter of Ballagh).
In the second case, the commission faulted Thomas P. Brooks II of the Veteran Town Court and Millport Village Court in Chemung County for inadequate supervision of court staff, resulting in the careless handling of court funds and other administrative lapses. He also neglected 142 motor vehicle cases by failing to notify the commissioner of motor vehicles that defendants had failed to appear or pay fines. It was stipulated that there was no theft or misuse of funds. The judge has taken steps to improve procedures (See Matter of Brooks). Both of the justices are nonlawyers.
Since 1978, the commission has censured 263 judges, 187 of them town or village justices.