NY Judicial Conduct Commission Calls for Removal of Upstate Judge for Series of Alleged Wrongs

NY Judicial Conduct Commission Calls for Removal of Upstate Judge for Series of Alleged Wrongs

Hand and judicial robe photo illustration. (Photo: Jason Doiy and S. Todd Rogers/ALM) (Photo: Jason Doiy and S. Todd Rogers/ALM)

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has recommended that an upstate judge be removed from the bench for a series of transgressions, which included performing a private law practice while serving as a full-time jurist.

The panel announced its decision Thursday in the case of Michael McGuire, an acting New York Supreme Court justice in Sullivan County. He also served as an acting Family Court judge. 

The commission outlined a wide-ranging list of alleged misconduct against McGuire, saying he failed to disclose conflicts of interest, yelled at a secretary and sentenced two people to 30 days in jail without following mandatory procedures.

The commission found McGuire dabbled in the practice of law while he served as a full-time judge, including representing his son in court after a marijuana possession arrest. “[The judge] admitted that he ‘absolutely’ knew in 2013 that he was prohibited from representing his son but did so anyway,” according to the commission.

In another instance, a defendant asked McGuire to recuse himself from the case because he knew the judge’s son. Instead, McGuire, who took the comment as a threat, yelled as he ordered the man to serve 30 days for judicial contempt, the commission found.

The disciplinary panel found the judge didn’t give the man a chance to be heard or warn him the behavior was contemptuous.

There were other instances where McGuire, without warning, ordered people to be handcuffed and detained at the courthouse for more than an hour, according to the commission. One woman reported chest pain and breathing problems after being put in custody and paramedics were called to the courthouse.  

The commission found McGuire’s behavior qualified as “truly egregious,” particularly because he repeatedly abused his contempt power and also represented his son while a full-time judge. 

Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian issued a statement Thursday saying the judge compounded his wrongful behavior by providing “untruthful testimony” during commission proceedings. 

“The breadth of Judge McGuire’s misconduct is stunning,” Tembeckjian said in the statement. “He wrongfully ordered people to jail and handcuffed Family Court litigants; often berated and yelled at court staff and litigants.”

The judge can appeal the commission’s decision to the Court of Appeals. The state’s high court can strike down the commission’s decision, choose a different punishment or impose no discipline at all. 

A request for comment from McGuire, who represented himself before the commission, was not immediately returned. 

The matter moves on to the New York Court of Appeals for a final determination.

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Published at Thu, 26 Mar 2020 13:39:00 +0000

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