Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Commission on Judicial Conduct slams judges for using their position to get out of traffic violations

Debate sparked by upstate case involving town justice accused of fixing ticket

A state panel is probing whether it’s out of order for judges to have special license plates that could get them off the hook if they speed or run red lights.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct says it has repeatedly slapped jurists for using their position on the bench to get out of traffic violations.

In a letter sent out this month, the commission asked whether judicial plates “distort the normal process of enforcing traffic laws” and put traffic cops who stop judges in an awkward position.
Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian said that the debate was sparked by an upstate case involving a town justice accused of fixing a ticket, but that the issue has come up in the past, usually outside the city. He said the panel is looking at the purpose of the plates, and whether they could put judges in danger when they’re not on the job.
If the plates are mainly used for courthouse parking, he said, placards or just a simple list of license numbers might make more sense.

But parking placards have caused problems, too. The commission has sent confidential warnings to city judges caught with official-business placards on the dashboard when they were nowhere near a courthouse.
“In the last six years we’ve probably sent five or six letters of this type,” Tembeckjian said.

He said that that after an initial warning, a judge caught using the placards improperly again faces public admonition.
“Most judges behave appropriately with these placards and don’t abuse them,” he said.

After getting input from court officials, judge groups, bar associations and civic organizations about whether judges-only plates pose ethical problems, the commission will issue a report and recommendations.

Tembeckjian said no one has yet weighed in on the commission’s call for comments, and several judges who represent judicial groups in the city did not return calls from the Daily News

One Brooklyn judge told The News he doesn’t have the plates because he doesn’t want to draw attention to his vehicle, and he estimated that half the colleagues in his courthouse drive incognito, too.
A Manhattan Supreme Court justice who asked not to be named said he was offended by the suggestion judges would use the license plates for personal gain. “I assure you that no one is using the plates to park in front of Bloomingdale’s,” he said. “We take this job very seriously.”

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