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Monday, November 21, 2011

Judge Thought It Was Good Idea to Hold Secret Court

Town Justice Is Chided Over Holding Court in Chambers
The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko  -  November 21, 2011

A non-attorney town court justice in St. Lawrence County should be admonished for holding court in his chambers between 2003 and 2010, as opposed to in his courtroom, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct has recommended. The commission held that the practice by Justice John W. Riordan in the town of Gouverneur ran counter to §4 of the Judicial Law, which requires that "the sitting of every court within the state shall be public, and every citizen may freely attend the same." While the commission said Mr. Riordan's courtroom is "spacious" with ample space for members of the public, his chambers in an adjoining room are much smaller, with only a few chairs. "Although respondent usually left this door open when he conducted proceedings in chambers, it was unlikely that anyone sitting in the courtroom could have heard the events and discussions occurring in chambers," the commission held. The panel noted that Mr. Riordan has been holding proceedings in his courtroom since July 2010 when a commission investigator visited his court.  The commission noted that under a stipulation with the state panel, Mr. Riordan agreed to hold proceedings in the future in his courtroom.

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STATE OF NEW YORK COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT
In the Matter ofthe Proceeding Pursuant to Section 44, subdivision 4, of the Judiciary Law in Relation to
JOHN W. RIORDAN, a Justice of the Gouverneur Town Court, St. Lawrence County.
THE COMMISSION:
Honorable Thomas A. Klonick, Chair Honorable Terry Jane Ruderman, Vice Chair Honorable Rolando T. Acosta
Joseph W. Belluck, Esq.
Joel Cohen, Esq.
Richard D. Emery, Esq.
Paul B. Harding, Esq.
Nina M. Moore
Honorable Karen K. Peters
Richard A. Stoloff, Esq.
APPEARANCES: Robert H. Tembeckjian (S. Peter Pedrotty, Of Counsel) for the Commission Frederick E. Paddock for the Respondent


The respondent, John W. Riordan, a Justice ofthe Gouverneur Town Court, St. Lawrence County, was served with a Formal Written Complaint dated July 5, 2011, containing one charge. The Formal Written Complaint alleged that respondent regularly held court in his chambers for approximately seven years. Respondent filed a verified answer dated July 27,2011. On September 19, 2011, the Administrator, respondent's counsel and respondent entered into an Agreed Statement of Facts pursuant to Judiciary Law §44(5), stipulating that the Commission make its detennination based upon the agreed facts, recommending that respondent be admonished and waiving further submissions and oral argument. On November 3,2011, the Commission accepted the Agreed Statement and made the following detennination:

1. Respondent has been a Justice of the Gouverneur Town Court, St. Lawrence County, since January 1996. Respondent's current term expires December 31, 2013. He is not an attorney.
2. From fall 2003 until July 2010, as a matter of practice, respondent regularly held court proceedings in chambers as opposed to the courtroom.
3. Respondent held court proceedings in chambers for his personal convemence.
4. The courtroom, the court clerk's office and respondent's chambers (which is an office) are located on the second floor of a building complex in the Village of Gouverneur.
5. The courtroom is well-equipped and spacious. It can accommodate numerous members of the public who wish to observe court proceedings.
6. In contrast, respondent's office, which he uses as chambers, is much smaller. It is furnished with, inter alia, filing cabinets, respondent's desk and only a few chairs. When respondent, the parties and their attorneys were in chambers for court proceedings, no space remained for members of the public to observe the proceedings.
7. A doorway connects chambers to the rear of the courtroom. Although respondent usually left this door open when he conducted proceedings in chambers, it was unlikely that anyone sitting in the courtroom could have heard the events and discussions occurring in chambers.
8. On several occasions between fall 2003 and July 2010, Gouverneur Deputy Court Clerk Irma Ashley, Gouverneur Court Clerk Lauri Andrews and St. Lawrence County Conflict Defender Amy Dona each expressed to respondent their view that he should hold court in the courtroom.
9. In or about July 2009, respondent and the court clerks attended a training session sponsored by the Office of Court Administration. One of the instructors discussed the need to hold court proceedings in the courtroom. Shortly thereafter, respondent acknowledged to the court clerks that he should hold court in the courtroom, but nevertheless continued to hold court in his chambers until in or about July 2010.
10. In July 2010, after a Commission investigator visited respondent's court to observe where proceedings were being conducted, examine records and interview witnesses, respondent began to hold court proceedings in the courtroom.
11. Respondent acknowledges that Section 4 of the Judiciary Law requires that '"the sittings of every court within the state shall be public, and every citizen may freely attend the same."
12. Respondent agrees that he will regularly conduct future proceedings in the courtroom, in accordance with the Judiciary Law.
Mitigating Factors  -
13. Since July 2010, respondent has conducted and continues to conduct court proceedings in the courtroom.

Prior Cautions  -  
14. Respondent was cautioned in 2002 and 2005 for conduct unrelated to the subject matter herein.
Upon the foregoing findings of fact, the Commission concludes as a matter oflaw that respondent violated Sections 100.1, 100.2(A) and 100.3(B)(l) ofthe Rules Governing Judicial Conduct ("Rules") and should be disciplined for cause, pursuant to Article 6, Section 22, subdivision a, of the New York State Constitution and Section 44, subdivision 1, of the Judiciary Law. Charge I of the Formal Written Complaint is sustained, and respondent's misconduct is established. With limited exceptions not applicable here, Section 4 ofthe Judiciary Law requires that the '"sittings ofevery court within this state shall be public, and every citizen may freely attend the same." Section 214.2(a) ofthe Uniform Civil Rules for the Justice Courts provides: It is the policy that the public is best served by justice courts which function in facilities provided by the municipality .... When facilities are provided by the municipality, the sessions of the court shall be held therein.


Notwithstanding the clear language of these mandates, which require that court proceedings be held at a location that is readily accessible by members of the public, respondent, for reasons of personal convenience, regularly held court proceedings in his chambers, rather than in the adjoining courtroom, for a period of approximately seven years. The judge's chambers contained no space for members of the public to observe the proceedings, and although the connecting door between the judge's chambers and the courtroom was "usually" kept open, it has been stipulated that anyone sitting in the courtroom was likely unable to hear the events and discussions occurring in chambers. The totality ofthese circumstances establishes that by conducting court proceedings in his chambers, respondent effectively excluded members of the public and thereby violated the statutory mandate (Jud. Law §4) and his ethical obligation to be faithful to the law (Rules, §100.3[8][ ID. At the very least, the public nature of court proceedings was severely compromised, which impairs public confidence in the fair and proper administration ofjustice.
Compounding his misconduct, respondent inexplicably continued to hold court in his chambers even after: (i) his court clerks and an attorney advised him on several occasions that court proceedings should take place in the courtroom; (ii) he attended an OCA training session in 2009 where the issue was addressed; and (iii) he acknowledged to his court clerks that court proceedings should take place in the courtroom. Not until a Commission investigator visited respondent's court in July 2010 did he discontinue his improper practice and begin to conduct court proceedings in the courtroom. The Commission notes that respondent has agreed that in the future he will hold court proceedings in the courtroom, as required by law. The Commission also notes that respondent was cautioned in 2002 and 2005 for conduct unrelated to the misconduct described herein. By reason of the foregoing, the Commission determines that the appropriate disposition is admonition.  Judge Klonick, Judge Ruderman, Judge Acosta, Mr. Cohen, Mr. Emery, Mr. Harding, Ms. Moore, Judge Peters and Mr. Stoloff concur. Mr. Belluck was not present.  -  CERTIFICATIONIt is certified that the foregoing is the determination ofthe State Commission on Judicial Conduct.  -  Dated: November 9,2011 - Jean M. Savanyu, Esq., Clerk of the Commission, New York State, Commission on Judicial Conduct

9 comments:

victim of Tembeckjian said...

The bigger question is how does something like this go on for so long? I find it interesting that Bob Tembeckjian is quite busy with the small time judges and ignores the bigger crimes committed by the connected judges.

Anonymous said...

This little crook is who is doing what the higher court judges do in chambers is slapped on the wrist, so Tembeckjian and the CJC's crooked judges can look like their doing something.

Anonymous said...

Must have taken a page from Scheinkman's pay book.

This is how the 9th JD is run.

Anonymous said...

Where are the F*&*ing Feds?!?

Anonymous said...

Tell me exactly what administrative judges do?
Aren't they supped to oversee fools like this guy?

Anonymous said...

"He is not an attorney." That's the key to this situation. The illegal system wants jobs for attorneys, this is what this is all about. This is a 'Judicial' hit, it's all about control, power and money by the Judicial Conduct Com. and the chief lackey Tembeckjian. Why doesn't this alleged Judicial Conduct Com. investigate the corrupt land of Surrogate Courts and it's fellow travelers?

Anonymous said...

Sort of shocked at this stage by inaction, no action, lack of action etc etc on and on by feds given pervasive nature of NY Court Corruption documented here and elsewhere for substantial period of time.

What happened to Federal Monitor for NY Courts?

What is status of the Lippman "investigation"?

Judge Karen Peters of the Third Dept Appellate Division who simultaneously sits on the NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct has been implicated in fraudulent Third Dept decisions in the longest running Foster Care case in Columbia County for some time.

Yet, no changes. That body known as the Commission on Judicial Conduct should have had Restraining Order / Disbanded some time ago.

Gov Andy Cuomo has not even acknowledged the problem.

Inaction by the CJC permitted upstate Columbia County Judge Paul Czajka referred to as "Judge Dread" in NY Post article Dec. 2004 to escape without a scratch and "resign" suddenly from the Bench in April this year 2011 to then go take back his old DA job by just under 2000 votes.

Yet, Czajka was the "Judge" in the longest running Foster Care case in Columbia County but is now will be back in the Prosecutor's office come Jan. 1, 2011.

Eventually talk becomes cheap and only action and results matters.

Where is the government in New York? Who is the government in New York?

hvr

Anonymous said...

typo: that will be Jan. 1, 2012 that Czajka gets to take the Oath of Office again to go become Prosecutor, Public Office holder.

Amazingly, he got what amounted to a "Clearance" Letter from Robert Tembeckjian at the CJC to use in his Campaign to take back DA job after "suddenly resigning".

Where is the action on Tembeckjian who apparently owns property in upstate Columbia County home of Judge Dread.

Judicial Accountabilty in NYS-Nicky Wells said...

Thought this would be of interest to you!

http://judicialaccountabilityinnys.blogspot.com/2011/11/james-mcsparron-law-guardian-albany_23.html

Blog Archive

See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:


               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
         
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2