Back in November we blogged the saga of Judge Robert Restaino, a City Court judge in Niagra Falls NY. He apparently was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day on March 11, 2005, when a cell phone went off in his courtroom, in violation of his judicial protocols. When no one fessed up to the crime, he jailed 46 people, most of whom had been waiting for disposition of domestic violence cases.
At the time of our first blog, New York's judicial oversight commission had voted 9 to 1 to fire Restaino. He appealed. Now the State Court of Appeals, with a vote of 6 to 0 with one abstention, has upheld the termination. The Appeals Justices said they have "serious doubts that this breach in trust is reparable."
Restaino is not without his supporters (two wrote in to comment on our original posting). It appears that his work, prior to this incident, was satisfactory. Niagra Falls District Attorney Michael Violante (excellent name for a DA!) was disappointed in the outcome. "He had a bad day and it's cost him the bench...I think that it's very unfair, frankly." Even one of the judge's critics, David Jay, a Buffalo civil rights attorney, thinks the outcome was too harsh. He believes that the courts need a disciplinary option between the extremes of dismissal and censure.
Aaron Besecker, author of the article in the Buffalo News, points out that at the time of the incident, Judge Restaino did not have a cell phone. Now that he is out of a job (and a comfortable salary of $113,900), he might want to invest in one. You always want to be accessible when someone calls with a lucrative job offer.