New York’s chief justice resigns amid misconduct proceedings

New York’s chief justice announced her resignation while the state’s Judicial Committee was considering a complaint that she improperly attempted to influence a disciplinary hearing, according to people familiar with the matter.

New York State Court of Appeals Judge Janet Deveore, 66, said in a letter Monday that she will be stepping down on August 3. 31. In addition to leading the state’s highest court since 2016, Judge Deveori has been responsible for overseeing one of the largest state court systems in the country.

The state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct has been investigating Judge Defuri for several months in connection with a complaint filed last year by Dennis Quirk, president of the court officers’ union, according to people familiar with the matter. The panel voted in June to serve Judge Daveore with a formal written complaint alleging that she improperly used her official position to influence a disciplinary hearing involving Mr. Daveore. Quirk said these people.

The formal complaint would have led to a hearing before the commission, which has the power to warn judges privately, issue warnings, or censure publicly. The committee can also remove judges from their posts. However, she has no jurisdiction over the jurists once they leave office, which means her resignation effectively ends the investigation.

the master. Quirk underwent a disciplinary hearing after court officials accused him of threatening retaliation against Judge Devory in 2020. Quirk sent an email to the judge threatening to share information about her private life after a news report said she had ordered an investigation into the union leader’s alleged racism, according to a copy of the email. Submitted in a related court case.

After disciplinary action, Mr. Quirk was temporarily suspended from his job as a court officer. In previous interviews about the incident, he denied any racist behavior.

In a letter dated August. On the 24th of last year, Judge Devior wrote to Phyllis Flug, who was presiding over the hearing, that Mr. Quirk suffered a “childish tantrum” and that “in the absence of significant punishment, he would be emboldened to engage in similar behavior in the future,” according to a copy reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

“I appeal to you to use your power wisely to uphold the values ​​of our entire court system,” Judge Deveore also wrote in the letter, which was printed on eponymous parchment.

The New York Code of Judicial Conduct states that judges may not grant the prestige of a judicial office to further their own interests and cannot testify voluntarily as a personal witness.

Deborah Scales, who represented Judge Devory on the matter, said: “Complaints like Mr. Quirk are made all the time. That’s part of being a public servant in this day and age.”

She said Judge Deveore had been planning her resignation for months and that she “has nothing to do with Mr. Deviore”. Quirk’s complaint or other external factors.”

Robert Timbekjian, director of the Judicial Conduct Committee, said he is barred from commenting on any commission-related matter.

Law360 previously reported that Judge Divory was under investigation by the Judicial Conduct Committee.

Judge Deveore said in her public resignation letter Monday that she is proud to eliminate the case backlog, advance racial equality, and guide the court system during the pandemic. “It’s time to move on to the next chapter of my career,” she wrote.

Judge DiFiore was the district attorney for Westchester County when she was nominated to the Court of Appeals by the former governor. Andrew Cuomo in December 2015. She was sworn in two months later. She also previously chaired the recently disbanded government ethics watchdog, the Joint Committee on Public Ethics.

Legal groups have evaluated their management of the system, including increases in funding for civil legal services. In 2020, I requested a report that found racial disparities in hiring and a “culture of toxicity” among court officers.

She also wrote an opinion in April invalidating new House maps drawn by Democrats in the state legislature, dealing a blow to the party’s efforts to maintain control of Congress.

Democratic ruler. Kathy Hochhol will name a successor to Judge Defuri from a list of names to be provided by the Screening Committee. Ms. Hochul said Judge DiFiore has been a “critical asset” to the court system during the Covid-19 pandemic.

write to Jimmy Vielkind at Jimmy.Vielkind@wsj.com and Corinne Ramey at Corinne.Ramey@wsj.com

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