It defies all logic that judges would jeopardize their careers over a few measly traffic tickets.
But human nature being what it is, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised to hear that a New York judge may have fixed a ticket in the hopes of getting a date with a driver he had the hots for.
Or that a Michigan judge allegedly used his powers to make tickets against himself and his lead-footed wife “go away.”
Earlier this month, the New York Appellate Division suspended Michael Dorsky for three years. From 1985 to 2004, Dorsky served as a traffic judge in Garden City for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
Dorsky, 60, is married and has three children. With a family and nice, secure gig as a traffic judge, you’d think Dorsky would be pretty satisfied with his life.
Perhaps he was.
But then Officer Catherine Johnson-Murphy walked into his life.
Johnson-Murphy of the NYPD had been cited for being involved in an accident with an uninsured vehicle. Johnson-Murphy contested the ticket, claiming that her car was inoperable and in storage at the time.
Johnson-Murphy’s case was assigned to Dorsky and trouble started brewing almost immediately.
According to court records, Dorsky first had contact with Johnson-Murphy in a phone conversation after which he granted her request for an adjournment.
Johnson-Murphy’s case was then heard at the DMV offices on March 31, 2004. Prior to the start of the hearing, Dorsky had a private conversation with Johnson-Murphy outside the hearing room
After the hearing and before Dorsky issued his decision, the judge started calling Johnson-Murphy, either speaking with her personally or leaving voice-mail messages.
In his disciplinary proceeding, Dorsky admitted placing the calls, explaining that Johnson-Murphy was “a person I would like to get to know better.”
In a decision signed by Dorsky on April 7, 2004, the judge found in favor of Johnson-Murphy and directed the DMV to remove the record of the accident from her driving record.
According to the court, in a phone conversation on April 20, Dorsky discussed the traffic case with Johnson-Murphy and, while acknowledging his attraction to her on one hand, assured her that he didn’t expect anything from her on the other.
“Frankly, I wasn’t even sure that you were not guilty … but that’s neither here nor there,” Dorsky said.
Also during that conversation, Dorsky confirmed plans to meet Johnson-Murphy for dinner the following evening.
Given Dorsky’s position and marriage, his apparent infatuation with Johnson-Murphy was wrong on a lot of counts.
But the state’s appellate division court was most concerned with Dorsky having a personal relationship with a party having a case before him.
The court concluded that Dorsky “not only acted improperly in pursuing a personal relationship with the subject of an administrative hearing over which he presided, but also engaged in a selective view of the evidence presented at the hearing, ignored prior warnings about ex parte communications from the DMV, and made false denials about his conduct to the Inspector General’s office.
“The respondent’s conduct clearly served to lessen public trust and confidence in the system and justly led to the termination of his employment with the DMV.” (In re Dorsky)
The ticket fixer
The next story of judicial misconduct comes from The Jackson Citizen Patriot.
Michigan Judge James M. Justin has been suspended during an investigation into various allegations of improprieties during his time on the Jackson County District Court.
The newspaper conducted its own investigation and uncovered court records showing that Justin dismissed nine traffic cases against himself and his wife, Kim.
According to The Citizen Patriot, the judge dismissed four illegal-parking tickets he received from 2002 to 2004.
Justin also dismissed five traffic tickets issued to his wife between 1999 and 2009. Most of those tickets were for speeding.
All told, the nine tickets “handled” by Justin carried potential fines and costs of $751.
Justin’s attorney, Dennis Kolenda of Grand Rapids, told The Citizen Patriot that the judge acknowledges that he was wrong in fixing the tickets.
But Kolenda argues that Justin’s heart was in the right place because he wanted to save taxpayers the cost of bringing in a visiting judge when the Justin and his wife contested the tickets.
“The practicalities of bringing in a judge for a parking ticket is probably more than what the people of Jackson County would want,” Kolenda told The Citizen Patriot.
Riiight. So the citizens of Jackson County should actually be thanking Justin. Sure, that argument will fly.
- Pat Murphy