Judicial commission removes Justice Glen George
By Joe Moskowitz
The long career of Middletown Town Justice Glen George has apparently come to a sudden, and to many, shocking end.
The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has removed George from the bench citing misconduct, which goes back to the year 2000. It was the opinion of eight judges on the panel that George is “unfit for judicial office.” Two judges disagreed, and one did not vote.
Last week the Catskill Mountain News reported that the 74-year-old judge would not seek reelection. He cited health reasons, but said he planned to stay on the bench until the end of the year. That story was based on an interview George granted the News on May 7. However, at that point, it was already no longer up to him. The Commission had ruled on May 1 that it no longer considered him fit to serve as a judge, and by May 9 the word had reached the Town of Middletown that George had been removed from the bench.
George was a New York State Trooper for 20 years. A heart condition forced him to retire in 1983. He took a job with Titan Drilling of Arkville. He handled collections and accounts receivable. According to the commission, he was also a friend of then Titan owner, Lynn Johnson. He attended several Johnson family weddings and after becoming a judge in 1985, even presided over one ceremony. But the commission warned George not to rule on any cases involv
ing the Johnson family after Johnson’s then daughter-in -law, Joan Johnson, received what some thought was lenient treatment from George.
In 2009, Lynn Johnson was ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. Johnson appeared in court on a day when prosecutors were not scheduled to appear and presented a title, which said the car he was driving was a 1976 model when the ticket said it was a year 2000 model. George, despite being warned by the commission not to handle any cases involving the Johnson family, and with no one from the prosecution present, dismissed the ticket.
The next year, Mike Guidice of Lynbrook, Long Island and New Kingston filed a complaint with the commission. He alleged that several well-known area contractors were told by Judge George that if they sued Guidice for non-payment, it was easy money. Guidice told the Catskill Mountain News, one of the contractors couldn’t even remember how much money Guidice supposedly owed, but on George’s advice, sued anyway.
The Commission didn’t rule on those cases, but the panel cited an incident involving New Kingston contractor and neighbor, Ron Jenkins. Guidice claimed that Jenkins diverted water onto his property causing damage. Guidice ultimately decided not to take legal action because with George on the bench and, with what had happened with the other local contractors, he felt he would automatically lose. George recused himself from the case anyway as Guidice had filed a complaint with the commission. The case was moved from Middletown to Roxbury before it was finally dropped.
They did meet each other again on June 18, 2012. It was in Albany as Guidice testified against George before the Judicial Conduct Commission.
He says he is pleased that Glen George is no longer a judge, but he says George cost him thousands of dollars and he plans to sue both George and the Town of Middletown.
Judge Joel Cohen was one of two commission members who voted not to remove George from the bench. He wrote that while George’s actions were deserving of a severe rebuke, “they fall well short of the standard set by the Court of Appeals for the extreme sanction of removal from office.”
Meanwhile, Middletown Town Attorney John Fairbairn III says the town board will have to decide whether to appoint a new justice to complete George’s term or to have Judge Gary Rosa continue to handle all of the cases until a new justice is elected in November. Rosa said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the case.
Asked for a comment on the proceedings, George says that any comments on the commission’s ruling will have to come from his attorney. And he says, “It is what it is, and we’ll play it to the end.”
George does have the right to appeal the decision.