Judge leaves bench after alleged courtroom misconduct

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A US City Court judge has agreed to forever leave the bench after allegations of improper judicial conduct.
 
Albany City Court Judge Thomas K. Keefe will step down from the bench on September 30 and agreed he will never seek a judicial position again, a report from local public radio network WAMC noted.
 
According to the broadcast network, court documents say Keefe had on several occasions “lashed out at prosecutors over proposed plea bargains, using ‘discourteous and undignified’ language to express his anger.”
 
According to Above the Law, among the most colourful allegations against the judge was that he told an assistant district attorney: “If you don’t f****** like the way things are going in this f****** courtroom, then don’t come back.”
 
In his retirement letter sent to Albany City Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Keefe said that his decision to retire “is due in large part” to his mandatory transfer from Albany Criminal Court to Albany Civil and Traffic Courts because of complaints filed by the District Attorney’s Office with the Judicial Conduct commission.
 
He said he has had to devote substantial time, energy and resources to defend himself against the complaints.
 
“I have missed the good work I was able to do in Albany Criminal Court helping many defendants get their lives back on track while also, where appropriate, holding them accountable for their behaviour,” the judge said.
 
Keefe was supposed to serve until 2022, the Times Union noted. A referee with the commission sustained 10 of 13 charges made against the judge.
 
It’s important to note, however, that these are allegations, the judge’s lawyer, Mark Mishler, stressed in multiple reports.
 
The judge said that though his stipulation with the commission does not require him to admit any misconduct, he “acknowledged misconduct in four of the charges, including my exceedingly poor handling of a matter involving a veteran” in 2013.
 
Iraq War veteran Joseph Hayner was in court saying he tested positive for marijuana. According to the Times Union, Keefe asked the veteran if he had killed anyone in Iraq or Albany.
 
Hayner said no.
 
“Okay, good,” the judge told Hayner. “So, if you had killed somebody, that would be really bad. If, in fact, you smoked marijuana in the last week, who the hell cares, right? Who the hell cares?”
 
Keefe considers this “the worst thing I have done in my 14 years as a judge, and for which I apologized. My intent was good; my execution was horrible.”
 

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