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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Chairman at Commission on Judicial Conduct Coming Soon (MORE, CLICK HERE)

NY Lawyer Who Moonlights as Justice Emerges as Favorite to Lead Judicial Watchdogs
By Joel Stashenko - The New York Law Journal - February 25, 2008

ALBANY - A Rochester-area solo practitioner who is also a part-time town justice has emerged as the favorite to succeed Raoul L. Felder as chairman of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Thomas A. Klonick is vice chairman of the judicial disciplinary panel and has been running the commission's meetings for the past five months. Several commission members said in interviews last week that they expect Mr. Klonick will be elected as the panel chairman once Mr. Felder's term ends March 31.

"Tom Klonick is certainly the presumptive new chair," said commission member Richard D. Emery. "He is a thoughtful, fair-minded, hard-working lawyer and judge. He runs the meetings very openly and allows people to participate in a full and complete way. I think everybody is very happy with Tom."

Mr. Klonick was appointed to the conduct commission by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye in 2005.

Mr. Felder, who has been chairman for nearly two years, has missed the commission's past three meetings since September because of illness or scheduling conflicts. He said Friday he may not be able to make his last meeting on the commission, on March 12-13, because of a mishap last month in Miami Beach in which he broke three ribs and damaged his lungs and a kidney when he was hit by a wind-blown beach umbrella.

"I am at work, but I am taking things slowly," Mr. Felder said in a phone interview from his Manhattan office.

Mr. Felder said he expects the commission to select Mr. Klonick as his successor.

"He is a good man," Mr. Felder said. "He is a decent man."

Mr. Klonick declined comment Friday, calling it "presumptuous" and "premature" to discuss his possible election.

"I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment," he said. "It'd be speculation."

Mr. Klonick, whose law practice is in Fairport, has been a justice of the Perinton Town Court since 1995. He was previously a justice in Macedon Town and Fairport Village courts as well as an acting Rochester City Court judge. He is a graduate of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and the Detroit College of Law.

By statute, one of the chief judge's three appointments to the commission must be a town or village court justice. One local justice has chaired the commission, then-Hamburg Town Court Justice Eugene F. Salisbury in 2004 and 2005.

Though critics of the justice court system contend that disciplinary actions by the conduct commission show elevated levels of misconduct among town and village court justices, the agency said its cases are proportional to the numbers of local judges in the state. Town and village justices make up 68 percent of the state judiciary and account for 71 percent of the misconduct rulings, according to Robert H. Tembeckjian, the agency's administrator and counsel.

Mr. Felder was appointed to the commission by then-Governor George E. Pataki and it will be up to Governor Eliot Spitzer to select his replacement as a member of the panel. By statute, that slot must be filled by an attorney who is not a judge.

Periodic Clashes

Mr. Felder's departure will end a stormy period in the commission's history.

He has clashed with others on the commission over what Mr. Felder contends has been the panel's lack of sympathy toward judges whose physical or emotional problems may have contributed to their misconduct.

And the other 10 commission members voted "no confidence" in Mr. Felder last year after a book entitled "Schmucks!" by Mr. Felder and comedian Jackie Mason was published. The members condemned the book as "crude, biased, vulgar and otherwise demeaning."

Mr. Spitzer later criticized Mr. Felder for writing the book and a top aide to the governor called for Mr. Felder to step down.

Mr. Felder said Friday he did not regret serving on the commission or as its chairman. Of his colleagues, he added, "I think they reflect the human condition with all its frailties, not the best part of human nature."

Mr. Tembeckjian said Friday that the "day-to-day business of the agency has not been affected by the conflict" among the members.

"But I certainly look forward to the return of a more collegial atmosphere at commission meetings," he added.

Mr. Emery, who has been on the opposite side from Mr. Felder in several recent commission decisions, said Mr. Klonick's style would be welcome.

"The current chairman has been an embarrassment and it is a shame that we didn't have a way to remove him ourselves because we would have," said Mr. Emery, of Emery Celli Cuti Brinckerhoff & Abady.

Mr. Emery's own term also expires on March 31. Unlike Mr. Felder, he is seeking to be reappointed by Senate Minority Leader Malcolm A. Smith, D-Queens. Mr. Smith's predecessor as leader of the Senate's Democrats, Lieutenant Governor David A. Paterson, appointed Mr. Emery to the commission in 2004.

"I definitely would like to continue, if the leader is willing to appoint me again," said Mr. Emery, who was also appointed by Mr. Smith to the new Commission on Public Integrity.

Mr. Smith's spokesman was not available for comment Friday.

A third commission member whose term expires on March 31 will definitely be staying. Chief Judge Kaye informed the commission last week that she will reappoint Court of Claims Judge Terry Jane Ruderman to another four-year term.

Judge Ruderman has been on the commission since 1999.

Meanwhile, one other seat on the commission remains open. It is one of two reserved for lay people. It has been open since mid-2006, except for a few weeks at the end of that year when Mr. Pataki appointed former aide William Howard to fill the slot.

Mr. Howard resigned when he joined Mr. Spitzer's administration, where he later became ensnared in an alleged scheme within the governor's office to use State Police to gather information discrediting the Senate Republican leader.

Mr. Spitzer's office could not say Friday if the governor has Mr. Felder's replacement in mind or why it has taken him so long to fill the other opening on the commission.

Members of the commission are not paid. Chairpersons serve two-year terms


Anonymous said...

Good bye Felder. Bad book, bad chariman.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Soon we'll be rid of Kaye and Felder. Just like scraping that stale piece of dog do off the bottom of your shoe.

Anonymous said...

JUDGE LINDA CHRISTOPHER- Who is she and why is she destroying Men and Children in the Rockland County Family Court.She is blatantly Anti Male and the poor children are suffering.

Anonymous said...

Animal lover, to the above anonymous writer..9:27 am..Why did you have to say, " Just like scraping the stale piece of dog off the bottom of your shoe".. It's more like scraping dog shit off the bottom of your shoe. Much, much better..thanks

Anonymous said...

to February 27, 2008 4:29 PM. This is not about gender. Is about how much can you pay extra to the Judge. Plenty of good mom's and their children are been destroyed by Judges and law guardians,Of both sexes who just hate CHILDREN.

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

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               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
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