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McGuire must step aside

Posted 4/2/20

The county legislature voted 6-1 to appoint County Court Judge Michael F. McGuire as the next county attorney in February.

In light of the 66-page Determination from the State of New York …

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McGuire must step aside

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The county legislature voted 6-1 to appoint County Court Judge Michael F. McGuire as the next county attorney in February.

In light of the 66-page Determination from the State of New York Commission on Judicial Conduct, which recommends Judge McGuire be removed from the bench, we believe it's in the best interest of the County of Sullivan and the people of our county if the Hon. Judge McGuire rescinded his nomination to the Sullivan County Legislature.

What is almost as troubling as the Determination itself is the fact that Legislative Chairman Rob Doherty said the legislature was aware of the complaints against Judge McGuire while he was being considered for the County Attorney position. He said, “We thoroughly investigated. We were supplied with a copy of the referee's report.”

We now urge our legislature to read and review the 66-page Determination from the State of New York Commission on Judicial Conduct, dated March 18, 2020, and deliberate on its findings.

We have spent the time to read it and we can only say it is very troubling and disturbing.

It clearly describes McGuire' inability to work with others, disregard for the ethical obligations he was sworn to uphold, how we was impatient and discourteous toward court personnel, and his lack of candor.

The report clearly states that Judge McGuire, as a matter of law, violated Sections 100.1, 100.2(A), 100.3 (B) (1), (2), (3) and (6), 100.3 (C)(1) and (2), 100.3(E)(1), 100.4(A)(2) and 100.4(G) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct.

The report identifies a half dozen instances from 2012-2014 when McGuire “improperly and without cause ordered litigants, some of whom were not represented by counsel, to be taken into custody in handcuffs.” McGuire contends that in two cases, litigants were already in the Sullivan County Jail when they appeared before him and were headed off to state prison.

Other litigants were reportedly removed from the court for what McGuire described as insolent behavior. Other charges of misconduct alleged that McGuire threatened to order litigants into custody on three other occasions, was discourteous to court personnel, failed to be courteous toward litigants in child custody matters and practiced private law while a full-time judge, including two instances of representing his family members.

The commission also found that McGuire presided over matters in which his impartiality could reasonably be questioned, conducted gun permit interviews at inappropriate locations, required his court secretary to work on certain Saturdays without compensation and used his judicial title in personal emails.

The New York State Court of Appeals will now review the Commission's report and make a final determination as to whether the Hon. Judge McGuire will be removed from the bench.

We appreciate Judge McGuire's acknowledgement in his press briefing last week that mistakes were made, as well as him stating that he's made changes since the period of time in question in the report.

However, the commission points out in their Determination that “Although [McGuire] argued that his conduct has changed since the events that are the subject of thirteen charges against him, the record reflected that [McGuire's] behavior seems to have changed only after he became aware of an investigation into his conduct.”

Enough said.

We feel it would be an egregious use of power and in the poorest of judgement for this legislature to move forward with his appointment.

Not only would the Hon. Judge McGuire now be overseeing a staff of nearly ten - instead of two - but his alleged pattern of misconduct and disregard for his ethical responsibities would certainly not be welcome in the County Attorney's Office or the Sullivan County Government Center.

Our County deserves better.

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