A judge’s pet peeve about lawyers saying “O.K.” was one of several reasons the state Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended on Wednesday that he be removed from his seat on the New York City Civil Court in Queens.
In a rare decision, the commission found that the judge, Terrence C. O’Connor, the son of a former district attorney, habitually mistreated lawyers, abused his power and failed to follow the law.
Beyond those infractions, the commission cited the judge for failing to cooperate with its investigation, refusing to take an oath to the tell the truth to investigators and then failing to show up to a disciplinary hearing.
“Judges are obliged to cooperate with official disciplinary inquiries into their behavior,” the commission’s administrator, Robert H. Tembeckjian, said in a statement. “Failing to cooperate, and acting in a manner intended to thwart an ethics inquiry, is itself misconduct, often more serious than the underlying behavior. Judge O’Connor was removed from office for his intransigence.”
Judge O’Connor, who was elected in 2009 and whose term ends in December, has a month to appeal the decision to the state Court of Appeals. The high court has the final say on whether Judge O’Connor remains in office, but is required to follow the commission’s determination if he does not appeal.
Judge O’Connor did not respond to a request for an interview emailed to his work address.
Judge O’Connor is a former prosecutor and private lawyer. He also served as a commissioner on the city’s Board of Elections. His father, Frank D. O’Connor, was the Queens district attorney for nine years until 1966, when he was elected president of the City Council.
Monday’s decision was not the first time Judge O’Connor has run afoul of the conduct commission. In 2013, he was censured for handling the affairs of incapacitated people while he was a full-time judge.
According to a document made public on Wednesday, Judge O’Connor, who sits in Housing Court, berated at least two lawyers for saying “O.K.” to witnesses at the end of each answer. The judge then accused the lawyers of leading the witnesses, struck the testimony from the record and dismissed the cases for lack of evidence.
In nine cases, the commission also found Judge O’Connor had ordered a plaintiff to pay the lawyer’s fees of a defendant in a lawsuit he had thrown out, even though neither side had requested the payment.
The commission also found the judge was withering in his criticism of lawyers, accusing them of being ignorant and rude. In one case, a new lawyer, one year out of law school, arrived late to court and announced he was not ready for a trial involving a tenant he was representing.
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In a Rare Step, Commission Recommends Removal of Queens Judge