Commission says Judge McGuire should be removed from bench

By FRITZ MAYER
Posted 4/1/20

MONTICELLO, NY — While the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC) has determined that Michael F. McGuire, a Family Court and Supreme County Judge, should be removed from office …

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Commission says Judge McGuire should be removed from bench

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MONTICELLO, NY — While the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC) has determined that Michael F. McGuire, a Family Court and Supreme County Judge, should be removed from office for various transgressions, the Sullivan County Legislature stands by its decision to hire McGuire as Sullivan County Attorney. McGuire will replace Cheryl McCausland, who will step down on Sunday, April 19.

In a statement issued on March 27, SCJC Administrator Robert Tembeckjian wrote, “The breadth of Judge McGuire’s misconduct is stunning. He wrongfully ordered people to jail and handcuffed Family Court litigants; often berated and yelled at court staff and litigants; presided in matters despite having a disqualifying conflict; impermissibly practiced law and used court staff to assist him; and otherwise misused court staff. He compounded it all with untruthful testimony during the commission’s proceedings. Such egregious misconduct warrants removal from judicial office.”

In response, McGuire held a conference call with reporters from the government center after the press release was issued. Standing with him were county chair Rob Doherty, vice-chair Michael Brooks and legislator Nicholas Salomone. 

McGuire said, “Mistakes were made in the transition from private practice to the bench, mistakes were made with the manner in which I interacted with some litigants, and mistakes were made in the way I interacted with some members of the staff. I take full responsibility for those things and regret that they occurred. However overall, over nine years on the bench, I’m exceedingly proud of the work that we’ve done and what has been accomplished.” He pointed out that the cases cited by the SCJC dated back to 2014, and he said his actions as judge had evolved over time.

The legislature, which voted in February to hire McGuire, knew about the investigation before they voted and the commission’s decision regarding McGuire has no impact on the legislature’s decision. Brooks said McGuire was “extremely confident” during an interview that legislators conducted with McGuire. “It was a very lengthy interview and a majority of us were very confident that Mike was the person that we wanted to be the county attorney going forward.”

The documentation related to the SCJC’s investigations includes instances of McGuire ordering people appearing before him to be taken into custody, which means being placed in handcuffs for usually a short amount of time. It’s clear that during these interactions tensions were mounting on both sides.

In four of the cases, McGuire said, the people “were removed from the court room for what I perceived at that time, albeit as a young judge, as insolent behavior, declarations that they weren’t going to follow the court’s order no matter what the court said, threats to sue the court if I gave visitation to either the mother or the father, and they were removed from the court for anywhere from 15 minutes,” to, in one case, two hours.

McGuire said those who were removed “recognized their insolent behavior and apologized.” He said, “Over the last six years, I’ve developed different strategies for accomplishing the same results that didn’t require such draconian acts.”

The final determination of the matter will be made by the New York State Court of Appeals.

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