[by Susan Ashline]
An Upstate New York judge is off the bench because I filed a complaint; even then, the body I complained to simply let him resign rather than take action.
Like other organizations that police themselves, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct is notorious for giving passes to their own kind.
The commission is tasked with investigating complaints of judicial misconduct, but of 11 members, 9 are judges and lawyers.
The majority of judges found guilty of the most heinous misconduct are merely “censured.” That means the commission sends out a press release naming them.
In this case, the commission allowed Livingston County (York) Town Justice Walter Purtell to resign after my complaint pushed him over the edge. Their press release says so:
“The judge was also apprised by the Commission in January 2017 that it was investigating a separate complaint regarding his conduct handling a recent arraignment.”
Purtell was the subject of a complaint in November; the commission brought my December complaint to him in January, which was the tipping point to his resignation.
I pat myself on the back, because a lot of people whined about his actions, but didn’t take steps to effectively address the issue.
Purtell violated the U.S. Constitution – not a small matter. Purtell is a retired state trooper, and in violation of the First Amendment, he illegally closed his courtroom for the arraignment of Danielle Allen, daughter of Purtell’s crony, State Police Troop E Commander Major Rick Allen. A State Police staffer then blocked the media and citizens from entering.
The day the media were barred from the courtroom, media staffers called the administrative judge for the 7th Judicial District, Craig J. Doran. Doran’s response was to simply move the case to a different judge.
Doran took no other action. A judge had violated the constitutional rights of citizens en masse, and Doran simply transferred one of the judge’s cases.
So I filed a formal complaint with the Commission on Judicial Conduct [letter acknowledging my complaint.] On March 16, they sent me a copy of their decision, and a letter stating “in view of the judge’s resignation… the Commission has determined to close its file.”
At least that blight is off the bench.
People say if you think you can do the job better – go ahead and try.
I did. I ran for town justice years ago.
I just might do it again.
Also published on Medium.