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Commission on Judicial Conduct censures Durham justice

Sep 08, 2022 1:00 am

Robert Gavin is reporting for the Times Union that Raymond J. Kennedy, a justice in Durham Town Court, was disciplined with a censure Sept. 7, after he name-dropped his judicial status in a small claims matter involving his wife. Kennedy has served as a justice since Jan. 1, 2008. He also tried to serve as his wife Debi's attorney while not a lawyer, according to the decision by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. Censure is the second-most severe punishment meted out by the commission; Kennedy agreed to the punishment. “Public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary is undermined whenever a judge invokes the prestige of office for a private benefit," Robert Tembeckjian, the commission's administrator, said in a statement. "It was plainly improper for Judge Kennedy to make references to his judicial position when his wife was sued, and to act as her lawyer in the case when in fact he is not a lawyer.” Kennedy told Catskill Village Justice William P. Wootton in making the case for his wife on April 17, 2019, "Your Honor, I'll state that to the court that it's no secret I'm a judge in another locality — and prior to that, I was a state trooper for 30 years." The case involved a rental property in Hopewell Junction in Dutchess County owned by the judge and his wife. While appearing before Wootton, Kennedy spoke in his wife's defense and cross-examined one of the plaintiffs. He also offered testimony about his wife's interactions with the plaintiffs which he did not witness. Justice Wootton ultimately found for the plaintiffs and the Kennedys had to pay them $3,000. Kennedy represented himself in the disciplinary hearing, and in an April letter to the commission, he admitted acting and speaking inappropriately in the matter. Read the full story in the Times Union.

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