The Buffalo News by Matthew Spina - March 7, 2009
Joseph G. Makowski has been disrobed. Yet he can still collect a “robe allowance.” State court officials said Makowski remains eligible for about $1,700 in so-called robe-allowance money even though he was forced to resign Friday from the State Supreme Court bench. Chalk it up to the system. For most judges the annual checks for a taxable $5,000 arrived this week. Makowski says he didn’t get his. But he eventually will be paid a reduced amount reflecting his midyear resignation, said David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration. The $5,000 “judicial supplemental support allowance” allows full-time judges to buy and maintain their robes and cover other expenses. Part-time judges receive lesser amounts. Bookstaver said Makowski’s allowance will be prorated to reflect the four months he served since Nov. 1 when the current expense-year began. That will work out to about $1,700, rather than the full $5,000, Bookstaver said.
Makowski, reached Friday afternoon, refused to speak publicly on the matter, and he was not raising a fuss over his robe allowance. He and his staff had been working over the last two weeks to close out cases and to draw the curtain on his 10 years as a jurist. “He has been a fair judge to everyone who came before him,” said Lorraine Ceccarelli, Makowski’s court clerk for the last four years. For several local lawyers, however, Makowski’s forced departure was no occasion for sorrow. Take William C. Altreuter, a lawyer who writes a blog about his observations on the law and other interests. “The most important quality that a judge can have is a good judicial temperament,” Altreuter said. “There isn’t enough black silk in the world to conceal the fact that this was something he was sadly lacking.” Late last month, Makowski chose to resign rather than face a charge in connection with his attempt to help Anne E. Adams, an attorney friend, evade drunken-driving charges. He had stated in an affidavit that Adams drank little and appeared fit to drive when they were together on the evening of Sept. 2. Other witnesses offered a distinctly different view of Adams that night. District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said Makowski and Adams had tried to fix her case. Makowski, 55, still could be suspended or disbarred by the Attorney Grievance Committee. The judgeship paid $136,700 a year, and Makowski initially announced that his resignation would be effective March 5 — Thursday. He later sent a letter telling Administrative Judge Sharon Townsend that he would make Friday his last day, to deal with pending cases. News Staff Reporter Matt Gryta contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org