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Judge’s Removal Recommended for Prolonged Tirade Over Courtroom Cell Phone


— November 27, 2007

A two-hour fit of pique in which an New York upstate city judge ordered 46 defendants into custody because none would take responsibility for a cell phone that went off in court should cost him his judicial career, the Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended Tuesday.

Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert M. Restaino’s “painfully prolonged” outburst on March 11, 2005, “transcended poor judgment” and warrants his removal from the bench, according to the commission’s recommendation to the Court of Appeals.

“In causing 46 individuals to be deprived of their liberty out of pique and frustration, respondent abandoned his role as a reasonable, fair jurist and instead became a petty tyrant, abusing his judicial power and placing himself above the law he was shown to administer,” the commission concluded.

Although the judge’s behavior constituted an isolated incident, his conduct brought the judiciary into “disrepute” and irreparably damaged public confidence in his ability to remain a judge, the commission held.

The commission’s chairman, Raoul Felder, was the lone dissenter in the 9-1 determination. He called his decision the most difficult he has made in his four years on the commission.

Felder conceded that Restaino engaged in “two hours of inexplicable madness” and wrote that when he first reviewed the facts in the case, he believed the judge had become a “tyrant” whose behavior merited removal. But on further review, and upon hearing a remorseful Restaino ascribe his outburst to the buildup of stress in his personal life, Felder urged compassion and punishment short of removal.

“I cannot find it within myself to destroy this individual’s professional life over this regrettable episode,” Felder wrote.

Details here from the New York Law Journal via Law.com.


A two-hour fit of pique in which an New York upstate city judge ordered 46 defendants into custody because none would take responsibility for a cell phone that went off in court should cost him his judicial career, the Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended Tuesday.

Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert M. Restaino’s “painfully prolonged” outburst on March 11, 2005, “transcended poor judgment” and warrants his removal from the bench, according to the commission’s recommendation to the Court of Appeals.

“In causing 46 individuals to be deprived of their liberty out of pique and frustration, respondent abandoned his role as a reasonable, fair jurist and instead became a petty tyrant, abusing his judicial power and placing himself above the law he was shown to administer,” the commission concluded.

Although the judge’s behavior constituted an isolated incident, his conduct brought the judiciary into “disrepute” and irreparably damaged public confidence in his ability to remain a judge, the commission held.

The commission’s chairman, Raoul Felder, was the lone dissenter in the 9-1 determination. He called his decision the most difficult he has made in his four years on the commission.

Felder conceded that Restaino engaged in “two hours of inexplicable madness” and wrote that when he first reviewed the facts in the case, he believed the judge had become a “tyrant” whose behavior merited removal. But on further review, and upon hearing a remorseful Restaino ascribe his outburst to the buildup of stress in his personal life, Felder urged compassion and punishment short of removal.

“I cannot find it within myself to destroy this individual’s professional life over this regrettable episode,” Felder wrote.

Details here from the New York Law Journal via Law.com.

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