Monday, September 7, 2015

Judicial conduct panel wants Flagstaff judge suspended

PHOENIX (AP) — A Flagstaff judge should be suspended for 90 days without pay for using government resources in his 2014 re-election bid, campaigning on government property and confronting a court employee who apparently supported his opponent, according to a recommendation from the state commission that oversees discipline for judges.

The seven-member panel of the Commission on Judicial Conduct also recommended that Flagstaff Justice of the Peace Howard Grodman be removed from the state Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. Grodman's lawyer, Bob Van Wyck, said he has already done so.

The opinion obtained Friday by The Associated Press is preliminary and came after a hearing last month. The commission can change it following a response from Grodman that is due Sept. 8. But Van Wyck said he has no plans to ask for a revision "because we quite frankly trust the commission."

The Arizona Supreme Court will have the final say and can modify or accept the recommended penalty, which at most would include removal from office.

Charging documents accused Grodman of violating judicial ethics by sending expletive-filled emails referencing his opponent from his official email account. He also used the account to seek endorsements and permission to post campaign signs and posted photos on his campaign website while wearing his judge's robes. In addition, he blocked his opponent in the primary election from hearing cases in justice court, where the opponent was an acting judge, and he illegally posted campaign material at a U.S. Post Office.

Grodman formally acknowledged many of the acts in advance of the hearing, but he called them poor decisions that he is sorry about making. He disputed an allegation that he intentionally failed to disclose to the commission that he had been disciplined by the presiding judge for his conduct. The commission didn't believe his testimony that the non-disclosure was inadvertent.

He was seeking a lower penalty during the hearing.

The commission found that even if Grodman's "initial ethical missteps could be attributed to ignorance of code-based campaign restriction (a doubtful proposition given his service on the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee), respondent ignored numerous entreaties by court staff and the presiding judge to stop his behavior," according to the panel's decision. "Even a cursory review of the code and relevant judicial ethics advisory committee opinions would have alerted (Grodman) to the impropriety of his actions."

Grodman was first elected as a judge in the Flagstaff Justice Court in 2010 after being a practicing lawyer for 27 years. He currently serves on the state Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. His biography says he has taught business law and ethics at Northern Arizona University.

Justice courts handle low-level criminal matters such as drunken-driving cases as well as civil matters like evictions.

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Judicial conduct panel wants Flagstaff judge suspended

1 comment:

Marsha said...

I would think the panel could automatically suspend this guy...