The New York state Commission on Judicial Conduct has admonished Judge Ellen Yacknin for soliciting, from the bench, support from an attorney for Yacknin’s Supreme Court candidacy, moments before she presided over a case involving the attorney’s client.
Yacknin, a lawyer and Rochester City Court judge since 2003, was accused of violating conduct rules during her unsuccessful 2005 Supreme Court campaign.
When lawyer Eftihia Bourtis appeared in Judge Yacknin’s court, the judge asked Bourtis to approach the bench. The judge told her that she was running for Supreme Court, asked for her support and requested that she be allowed to use Bourtis’ name in campaign materials.
Bourtis agreed, but later told the commission that she “felt terrible” after the conversation and realized it was inappropriate. She also testified to the commission that, given the circumstances, “I felt that I had to say yes” to the request.
“By asking for political support from an attorney standing before her in court, respondent severely damaged any possibility that she could handle the attorney’s case without an appearance of bias,” the commission held. “Regardless of the attorney’s response, respondent’s impartiality was compromised.”
On commissioner dissented, criticizing what some contend are vague guidelines on judicial electioneering and conflicting rulings on the issue by the US Supreme Court and the state Court of Appeals.
Via New York Law Journal.