By Karen Freifeld
NEW YORK, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Justice Lewis Bart Stone, who is
stepping down from the New York bench this month, is being
investigated over how he handled a possible conflict of interest
in a case he oversaw in 2011.
Attorney Bradley Simon said on Thursday he lodged a
complaint against Stone with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct last year.
Stone confirmed the investigation and said the commission
had not yet reached a finding. He has said allegations of a
conflict of interest are "meritless."
The commission is responsible for investigating complaints
of judicial misconduct and can recommend censure, removal or
retirement of a judge.
Robert Tembeckjian, the administrator of the commission,
declined to comment. David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the state
Office of Court Administration, also declined to comment.
The potential conflict of interest arose in a corruption
case against former New York state comptroller Alan Hevesi. It
centered on a relationship between Stone, the judge in the case,
and the father of Hevesi's attorney, Bradley Simon.
On Oct. 6, 2010, the day before Hevesi pleaded guilty, Stone
determined that there was no conflict and that he could continue
to preside over the case, placing his decision under seal.
At a hearing on March 1, 2011, Simon asked Stone to recuse
himself. At the hearing, Stone disclosed that he was a trustee
of Simon's parents' estate and that Simon had been disinherited.
Stone denied there was a conflict but eventually transferred
Hevesi's sentencing to another judge. Hevesi was sentenced to
one to four years in prison.
Speaking to Reuters on Thursday, Stone declined to say
whether the probe into the potential conflict had influenced his
decision to step down from the bench. "As far as I'm concerned,
there is no finding at this point," Stone said.
New York judges who reach 70 and meet certain criteria can
seek up to three two-year extensions to their terms. Stone, who
is 74, said on Wednesday he had decided voluntarily not to seek
a third extension.
Because Stone is not leaving before the end of his term, the
commission will no longer have jurisdiction to continue the
probe once he leaves the bench.
Simon said on Thursday that he complained to the commission
because Stone had made deceptive statements by failing to reveal
that he was a fiduciary of his parents' estate until
"I'm disappointed that there will be no ultimate
determination of a matter involving strong evidence of judicial
misconduct," Simon said.
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