Report critical of area justice

Justice David Prince of the Pomfret and Fredonia courthouses recently came under scrutiny by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct for actions related to an arraignment he presided over in February 2012.

The 10-member commission (11 with one vacant seat) released a final report on its proceeding for Prince this past December, which recommended Prince “be admonished” since he allegedly “failed to advise a defendant of his right to assigned counsel, made statements that appeared to prejudge the case, and made discourteous, inappropriate statements to the alleged victim.”

The commission voted nine to one to admonish Prince, with the one person citing the punishment as “too lenient.”

The OBSERVER obtained a copy of the report, which details the events leading up to Prince’s hearing and states the arraignment in question was regarding a domestic dispute.

The report did not give the names of the individuals involved in the dispute, and simply referred to them as “A.G.,” a woman and a mother, and “C.M.,” her live-in boyfriend at the time. C.M. allegedly shoved A.G. into a kitchen table, screamed profanities and forced open a door to her room.

“(Prince) failed to advise Mr. M of his right to assigned counsel,” the report states. “Upon learning that Ms. G, who was present in court for the arraignment, did not wish to pursue charges against Mr. M, (Prince) called her to the bench and said: ‘You want to drop these charges now after what he’s accused of doing? Why would you want to subject your children to that, or yourself, to that type of person? … If you don’t want to put your children first, then we will. We’re not dismissing the charges.'”

The report went on to allege Prince spoke to A.G. “in an angry and discourteous manner and threatened to take action to have the victim’s children taken from her home, because of her expressed desire not to pursue the criminal charges.”

The town and village justice told the OBSERVER that under the rules of the commission, he is not allowed to comment on the case. He then referred the OBSERVER to his attorney, Barry Corvert.

“We are grateful for the lowest level of disposition,” Corvert said, referring to Prince’s admonishment. “The commission recognized his 24-plus years of unblemished service, and that he has two benches that he holds. He certainly acknowledges the error of judgment, but we appreciate the lowest possible level of disposition.”

Prince has been a justice for the town of Pomfret since 1990 and a justice with the village of Fredonia since 1997. He is also involved with the Dunkirk City Drug Court.

The commission’s report confirmed Corvert’s comments by explicitly stating Prince “has no previous disciplinary history over his lengthy career on the bench.”

“He regrets his failure to abide by the applicable rules in this instance, and pledges henceforth to abide by them faithfully,” the report concluded, referencing the rules referred to as the “fairness in the administration of justice and a judge’s obligation to be an exemplar of neutrality and courtesy in court proceedings,” as well as the right for defendants to counsel.

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