Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Kings Superior Court Judge Admonished by CJP
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Kings Superior Court Judge Ronald J. Maciel was admonished yesterday by the Commission on Judicial Performance for abusing his authority in sanctioning an attorney without prior notice or an opportunity to be heard.
In January 11, 2005, the commission found, Maciel presided over a preliminary hearing. Attorney Robert Wynne appeared specially on behalf of attorney Eric Schweitzer, whose firm had substituted in a week earlier.
Wynne explained that Schweitzer was in trial that was expected to be completed in two days, and asked for a three day continuance.
The deputy district attorney handling the case objected to the continuance, arguing Schweitzer should have known he might not be available for the preliminary hearing when his firm substituted in.
Maciel, the commission explained, said he made it quite clear when he accepted the substitution of attorney that he would not do so if the new counsel would not be ready to proceed at the January 11 preliminary hearing.
Maciel granted the continuance , but fined Schweitzer $1,000.
When Wynne asked if the sanctions could wait until Schweitzer was before the court, or be reduced to $999, Maciel declined.
Two days later Schweitzer appeared for the preliminary hearing along with Douglas Feinberg, an attorney he retained to handle the sanctions matter. Feinberg submitted a declaration prepared by Schweitzer offering an explanation for his absence, which the judge was reluctant to accept. Maciel did not appear to read the declaration and cut Feinberg off, telling him to “Take it up on appeal.”
The commission stated, “ Before sanctions are imposed adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard are mandated based upon the due process clauses of both the federal and state constitutions.”
The commission, which noted that Maciel had drawn a previous public admonishment and three private “stinger” letters, adopted its order by a vote of 10-0.
The public admonishment is the least severe form of public discipline the commission can impose. Maciel waived his right to an evidentiary hearing.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company