Niagara Gazette

Local News

November 27, 2007

NIAGARA FALLS: Restaino ordered removed

Commission cites abuse of judicial power in March 2005 incident

In a stinging, frequently explosively worded opinion, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has recommended the removal of Judge Robert Restaino from the Falls City Court bench.

The recommendation, issued Nov. 13 and made public late Tuesday afternoon, said Restaino engaged in “an egregious and unprecedented abuse of judicial power” in March 2005 by putting 46 defendants behind bars after no one would take responsibility for a ringing cell phone in his courtroom.

The eight-page decision, supported by nine of the commission’s 10 members, was unrelenting in its criticism of Restaino. Commissioner’s wrote that Restaino behaved like “a petty tyrant” whose behavior constituted “a gross deviation from the proper role of a judge.”

Restaino’s lawyer, Joel Daniels, said the commission had reached the wrong conclusion about the judge.

“I disagree in the strongest possible terms with the commission’s decision,” Daniels said. “Judge Restaino was a credit to the bench and a valued and respected member of the Niagara Falls community, with a great record of accomplishment on and off the bench. With the exception of two hours, his record is spotless.”

Daniels said he had not spoken to Restaino since receiving the commission’s decision and did not know if the judge would appeal the commission’s recommendation. Attorney Terrence Connors, who will replace Daniels, told The Associated Press Restaino would exercise his right to appeal the decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, which has the power to reduce the decision to censure instead of removal from the $113,900-a-year post.

Since 1978, the Commission has recommended the removal of 156 judges, 38 of them full-time judges like Restaino, across the state. The Court of Appeals has reviewed 85 commission recommendations since its creation and upheld those decisions 71 times.

Of the remaining 14 cases, two were increased from censure to removal. Twelve recommendations were reduced, while nine recommended removals were modified to censures.

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