Palmyra, NY – A Wayne County judge received only a slap on the wrist after he used his position to bully Newark police officers.
Palmyra Town Court and Palmyra Village Court Justice William Abbott locked his keys in his car at the Newark-Wayne Community Hospital on Nov. 28, 2017, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported.
So he called 911 and asked the Newark police dispatcher to send an officer to unlock his car for him.
Initially, the dispatcher told the judge that she couldn’t send anyone because it was a violation of Newark Police Department policy, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported.
Newark police may not respond to requests like that unless it’s a bona fide emergency.
The dispatcher offered to contact a local garage to assist the judge, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported.
But Abbott wasn’t satisfied with playing by the rules.
He informed the dispatcher that the police had “done this before for me” and threatened to shirk his judicial responsibilities if they didn’t do his bidding, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
“I am Judge Abbott of Palmyra and I just won’t do any arraignments for you anymore,” Abbott told the dispatcher.
Village of Newark police officers frequently take defendants to Palmyra Town Court if the Newark Village Court isn’t open, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported.
The dispatcher was intimidated enough by the judge’s threat that she asked a Newark police sergeant to respond to the scene.
The sergeant had to call for another officer to help him, and they spent 20 minutes getting the judge’s car unlocked, according to WROC.
The judge got away with breaking the rules for almost a year before somebody heard about his behavior and tattled to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, according to the Rochester Democrat & Register.
Abbott was served with a formal written complaint on Nov. 19, 2018, according to a press release from the state judicial conduct commission.
The commission determined that Abbott “should be censured for invoking his judicial office when asking for police assistance in unlocking his personal vehicle and threatening to refuse to conduct future arraignments if they did not comply.”
“[I]dentifying himself as a judge while asking for assistance, standing alone, would have constituted an implicit request for special treatment, which is inconsistent with the high ethical standards required of every judge,” the commission wrote.
But the judge’s inappropriate conduct grew worse when he threatened to retaliate against the Newark police if they didn’t do what he wanted.
“There is no justification for a judge’s refusal to perform judicial duties out of personal pique, and even threatening to do so is detrimental to public confidence not only in the integrity of the judge’s court, but in the judiciary as a whole,” the judicial conduct commission wrote in the ruling.
The press release noted that Abbott, who has served Palmyra as a judge since 1979, had been disciplined in the past for abusing his authority.
In 1989, Abbott solicited an affidavit from a witness in a case pending in another court for a friend, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
“Invoking one’s judicial title for a personal favor, and threatening not to perform a judicial duty when rebuffed, are plainly improper. Judge Abbott should have known better, having been disciplined previously for invoking his judicial office in a private matter. He accepts responsibility, appears to appreciate the impropriety of his action and is expected not to repeat it in the future,” Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian said in a written statement.
Abbott has 30 days to appeal the ruling of the judicial conduct commission to the New York Supreme Court, even though he already acknowledged his misdeed to the commission and promised not to do it again.
Abbott’s term expires in both the Palmyra Villa Court and the Palmyra Town Court in December, according to the press release.