The New York Times

August 20, 2004

Judge to Face Ethics Panel, Police Say


The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has decided to initiate charges against Laura D. Blackburne, the trial judge who, the police contend, helped a robbery suspect in her courtroom elude arrest.

The police unions that filed a formal complaint seeking to unseat the judge said they received indications of the commission's move yesterday.

The actions of the commission, which can remove or otherwise punish state judges, are ordinarily secret. It did not announce the action, akin to an indictment although it is not a criminal proceeding. Justice Blackburne's State Supreme Court term expires in 2007.

Michael J. Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, one of the complaining unions, said in an interview yesterday he had received a formal request that one of his detectives, Leonard Devlin, be made available for a disciplinary hearing "in late October or early November." Detective Devlin had tried to arrest the suspect in Justice Blackburne's courtroom.

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the other complaining union, released a statement last night, saying the commission had taken action to determine whether Justice Blackburne violated judicial ethics.

Mr. Lynch said in his statement, "It is our hope that when the hearings are held, Blackburne will be denied the privilege of a seat on any bench in New York City." Judge Blackburne did not respond to messages left on her home answering machine.

In June, according to a court transcript, Justice Blackburne ordered a defendant to leave her courtroom under escort, contending that Detective Devlin had falsely said he planned to question the defendant, not arrest him. The police unions deny there was any misrepresentation.

"I resent the fact," the judge said at the time, "that a detective came to this court under the ruse of wanting to ask you questions when, in fact, he had it in his head that he wanted to arrest you. If there is a basis for him arresting you, he will have to present that in the form of a warrant.''