By Daniel Wiessner
ALBANY, N.Y., Dec 27 (Reuters) - The New York State
Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended discipline for three
judges, including one who took part in a profane exchange with a
17-year-old criminal defendant.
The commission on Thursday said Buffalo City Court Judge
James McLeod should be admonished for his "crude and offensive
manner" in speaking with the defendant, who was not named, in
February 2011. McLeod made the comments after the defendant
hurled obscenities at him, the commission said.
"Even in the face of provocative, disrespectful comments by
a litigant, a judge is required to be an exemplar of decorum and
dignity in the courtroom, and not allow the proceedings to
devolve into an undignified exchange of taunts, insults and
obscenities," the commission wrote in its determination.
It said McLeod, who has been a judge since 1999, accepted
"full responsibility" for the exchange. Admonishment is the
mildest form of discipline the panel may recommend.
McLeod did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
His attorney, Michael Mohun, was not available to comment.
The panel on Thursday also censured Erie County Family Court
Judge Paul Buchanan and admonished Douglas Horton, the town
justice in Mexico, Oswego County.
Buchanan in 2011 visited a 14-year-old girl in a Buffalo
hospital while he was presiding over her juvenile delinquency
case, the commission said. The girl had overdosed on
prescription drugs in an apparent suicide attempt, and Buchanan
brought her gifts and told her "she had a lot to live for," the
Buchanan did not seek permission from the girl's mother or
attorney to visit her, and did not disclose the visit during
court proceedings, the panel said. After one of the attorneys in
the matter found out about the visit and protested, Buchanan
transferred the case to another judge.
Section 100.3 of the state Rules Governing Judicial Conduct
bars judges from having private conversations with litigants,
which are known as ex parte communications.
Buchanan, who has been a family court judge since 2004, also
was censured for "shouting (at), demeaning and berating" an
attorney and a court officer on two separate occasions in 2009
Buchanan did not immediately respond to a request for
comment. His attorney, Richard Sullivan, said Buchanan "made a
mistake of the heart" in visiting the girl and "fully accepts
Meanwhile, Horton in 2010 got into a physical altercation
with his former girlfriend, according to the commission. Horton,
a volunteer firefighter, and the woman attended an annual dinner
of the Mexico Volunteer Fire Department.
The couple got into an argument in the foyer of the
restaurant where the dinner was held. Horton grabbed the woman
and threw her to the floor, the commission said. No criminal
charges were filed.
"For one who holds a position of public trust and who
presides over cases involving domestic violence ... such conduct
adversely affects (his) ability to administer the law
effectively and impartially," the commission said.
Horton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
His attorney, James Eby, was not immediately available to
All three judges have 30 days from receipt of the rulings to
appeal to the Court of Appeals. If they do, the court may affirm
or dismiss Thursday's determinations or recommend a different
form of discipline, which can include suspension or removal. If
they do not appeal, the discipline recommended by the commission
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