On Tuesday, former Onondaga County Family Court judge Bryan Hedges appealed the recommendation of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct for permanently barring him from the bench. During submissions at the Court of Appeals in New York, Hedges’ attorney, Robert Julian, said, “Distant acts, I think, are overcome by a life well led.”
According to the findings of the Commission, the alleged incident had taken place when Hedges was a 25-year old law student, and during a visit to his mother-in-law’s home during 1972, he masturbated in front of his 5-year-old niece for several seconds.
Hedges’ niece, who is now in her 40s, told the Onondaga County DA William Fitzpatrick about the incident last year. Fitzpatrick sent a letter to the commission based on Hedges’ niece’s testimony. Hedges could not be charged with a crime due to time-limitation having expired.
As soon as Hedges was informed of an investigation by the commission on the matter, he resigned from his post.
Julian, Hedges’ attorney compared his client’s life with that of Pope Benedict XVI, who was a member of the Hitler Youth in his young age. He said the disciplinary action was extreme in nature, as Hedges had already resigned of his own accord, and he had not been charged with any crime.
However, Robert Tembeckjian, the chief counsel of the commission said, “The integrity of the judiciary and the courts requires a statement that when an individual engages in an act of sexual misbehavior with a child, there is no place for that person on the bench.”
In a letter sent in May to the commission, Hedges had denied that he had engaged in a sexual act with the child, and that the commission did not have jurisdiction in the matter, as the incident happened 13 years before he became a judge.
Hedges, who attended Syracuse University Law School, is also a Vietnam Veteran, and had served on the family court for more than 27 years without any blemish on his record.
However, the commission did not agree and held that Hedges had allowed the deaf girl to touch his hand during the act and it was sufficient “moral turpitude” for the commission to issue disciplinary action.
The appeal remained undecided with two commission members dissenting and holding that the chapter should have been closed with Hedges resigning voluntarily from his position, and there should have been no further sanctions.
Judge Eugene Pigott said on Tuesday, “All of this seems extraneous because he was off the bench” at the time hearings were held and the disciplinary action issued.
The appeal will be decided next month.