By Daniel Wiessner
Nov 13 (Reuters) - A town justice has lost his bid to bar
the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct from continuing an
investigation against him for allegedly charging excessive fines
in traffic cases.
Andrew Piraino argued that the commission, which
acknowledged the excessive fines were levied unintentionally,
lacked jurisdiction because it had failed to allege facts
amounting to actual misconduct. Piraino, who is an attorney and
the town justice in the Syracuse suburb of Salina, filed an
Article 78 petition, seeking to prohibit the commission from
continuing its investigation.
The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, on Friday
dismissed Piraino's claims, allowing the commission to resume
its case against him.
"Prohibition is available only when a court or
quasi-judicial body exceeds its jurisdiction in a manner that
implicates the legality of the proceeding itself, which is not
the case here," the court wrote.
The panel included Justices Erin Peradotto, Edward Carni,
Stephen Lindley and Salvatore Martoche.
Piraino's attorney and law partner, Aaron Zimmerman, did not
return a request for comment.
Robert Tembeckjian, the commission's chief administrator and
counsel, said on Tuesday that he "appreciated" the ruling.
The Fourth Department, he said, "has affirmed ... that under
New York law, an Article 78 is not the proper forum in which to
adjudicate charges of judicial misconduct."
The commission in 2009 notified Piraino that it was
investigating him for allegedly charging more than $20,000 in
excessive fees in nearly 1,000 traffic cases between 2006 and
Last year, Acting Supreme Court Justice John Cherundolo in
Onondaga County dismissed Piraino's claims, but five months
later reversed himself and ordered discovery after granting
reargument. Cherundolo also sealed the case once it was
The commission may recommend admonishment, censure,
suspension or removal. Judges reserve the right to automatically
appeal the commission's decisions to the Court of Appeals.
Piraino was admitted to the bar in 1983 and was elected
justice in Salina in 1994. His current term expires on Dec. 31,
The case is the Matter of John Doe v. New York State
Commission on Judicial Conduct, New York State Supreme Court,
Appellate Division, Fourth Department, No. 11-02281.
For Piraino: Aaron Zimmerman.
For the CJC: Kathleen Treasure of the Attorney General's
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