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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Judges May Be Penalized for Delays, NY Court Rules

Judges May Be Penalized for Delays, Court Rules
The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko - December 16, 2009

ALBANY, NY - Judges may be penalized for tardiness in their rulings, but such misconduct must be determined based on the circumstances of the individual cases, the state Court of Appeals ruled today. The 6-0 Court revisited its 1990 finding in Matter of Greenfield, 76 NY2d 293, in which it held, generally, that the state Commission on Judicial Conduct lacked the jurisdiction to discipline a judge for failing to timely dispose of pending matters. Ruling on a commission recommendation to admonish Kingston City Court Judge James B. Gilpatric for his delays in making rulings from 2004 to 2008, the Court said that "a judge's failure to promptly dispose of pending matters is primary a matter for administrative correction" within the court system. "But after nearly twenty years of experience with Greenfield, we think it is not workable to exclude completely the possibility of more formal discipline for such behavior, in cases where the delays are lengthy and without valid excuse," the judges held in a per curiam ruling in Matter of Gilpatric, 196.

The Court added, "We now hold that lengthy, inexcusable delays may also be the subject of disciplinary action, particularly when a judge fails to perform judicial duties despite repeated administrative efforts to assist the judge and his or her conduct demonstrates an unwillingness or inability to discharge those duties." The judges cautioned that the circumstances of each judges' delays must be examined to determine if misconduct is present. "Statistics alone are insufficient to support a finding of misconduct; disciplinary action must be based on a record demonstrating a judge's persistent lack of action in response to administrative recommendations or warnings," the judges ruled. In the case before it, the Court ordered that Judge Gilpatric's case be sent back to the commission and that a referee be called in to gather a more complete record. The Court said they could not determine whether a warning Judge Gilpatric received from the commission in 2004 about decision-making delays was sufficient to "render these delays misconduct as a matter of law." Nor could the Court determine from the record what help Judge Gilpatric was offered by court administrators to help him speed up his rendering of decisions.

According to the commission's determination admonishing Judge Gilpatric, he failed to render decisons in 43 cases and four motions in a timely fashion between 2004 and 2008 (NYLJ, June 19). The longest of the cases went 31 months without a ruling. In 24, delays ranged from two months to six months after final submission and in 17 cases, delays ranged between seven months to 14 months. Judge Gilpatric's attorney, James E. Long, argued before the Court of Appeals that decision-making delays, where bad faith is not involved by judges, are a matters for the state court system to police through its administrative judges, not misconduct punishable by the Commission on Judicial Conduct (NYLJ, Nov. 18). Mr. Long contended that Greenfield limited the commission's involvement in such instances to cases where judges defy an order or falsify records. Judge Gilpatric, a part-time Kingston City Court judge from 2004 to 2007, will start his new duties as a Supreme Court justice in the Third Judicial District following his election last month. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman took no part in today's decision. Joel Stashenko can be reached at jstashenko@alm.com

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

More garbage from Lippman-land.

Anonymous said...

why do the judges take so much time to make decisions, is that so that possibly infomation can be altered or time limits can be denied,
oopsies, your right to file any appeal will cost you and you have no time left!
hope the judges keep getting charged and then they turn all the crud in!

Anonymous said...

The problem is so out of control with some very politically protected judges...that I am waiting right now for 3 years for a decision on an upstate SMALL CLAIMS matter!

Misconduct as I see it, revealing judicial manipulation to send a message?

Anonymous said...

Judges that pull this act are out to benefit a pal. The don't want to rule against a buddy so they don't make any ruling. Go complaint against a Judge-lawyers and see what happens - NOTHING - it's a bad joke! That's how they can get away with these tricks they know that they have the system fixed.

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