New York Daily News

June 17, 2004

Blackburne pals ready to rally around judge

BY MICHELE McPHEE AND GREG B. SMITH
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

With the state expected officially to open a probe of Queens Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne today, her defenders plan on staging two public displays of support.

City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) has organized a rally outside Blackburne's Kew Gardens courthouse and a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

Both will take place as the Commission on Judicial Conduct meets in lower Manhattan. The commission - which sources say already has begun lining up witnesses - is expected to officially approve an investigation at today's meeting.

Blackburne has been under fire since June 10, when she had a robbery suspect escorted out a back door to dodge a detective waiting to arrest him.

Since then, a growing chorus of cops, court officers and politicians has called for Blackburne's removal from her $136,000-a-year job. She has been reassigned from Criminal to Civil Court while the probe unfolds.

Barron ripped the cops and politicians yesterday for convicting Blackburne without a trial.

"We resent the fact that she's being tried by public opinion and by the media and not by the investigation," Barron said.

Barron said those who will rally behind the judge include NAACP New York director Hazel Dukes, Eric Adams, co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry and Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-Queens).

Blackburne declined to comment yesterday.

The state judicial conduct commission is expected to take up the Blackburne question today.

The commission already has made efforts to contact court officers, the detectives' union, the NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown's office to get witnesses ready for questioning as soon as tomorrow.

The witnesses include Detective Leonard Devlin, who wanted to arrest the suspect, and prosecutor Sharon Scott-Brooking, who was in court when the suspect, Derek Sterling, was allowed to evade arrest.

Investigators also have sought to speak to Sgt. Richard Peterson, the court officer who reluctantly sneaked Sterling out on Blackburne's orders.

Meanwhile, court officer unions released what they dubbed "The Laura Blackburne Operation Memo" directing members to help cops arrest wanted suspects - even if they are ordered to do otherwise by jurists.