Categorized | Government, Page 1

Southampton Town Judge Censured

Posted on 28 May 2014

By Mara Certic

Southampton Town Justice Edward D. Burke Sr., has been censured by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct for four acts of misconduct, it was announced Wednesday, May 28.

Mr. Burke has been cited for using his position to promote his law firm; imposing fines in excess of the maximum amount authorized by law; making improper political contributions; and riding in a police car with a defendant after arraigning him on a drunken driving charge, recommending that the defendant hire his business partner, and then presiding over the case.

Robert H. Tembeckjian, the commission’s administrator, had argued that Mr. Burke be removed from office. “I recommended removal, but the commission voted to censure the judge,” he wrote in a statement issued on Wednesday morning. A censure is an official reprimand of a public official for inappropriate conduct.

Nine members on the commission agreed to the censure in a determination dated April 21. A 10th did not participate. Coincidentally, it was the same day that a New York State Supreme Court ordered former East Hampton Town Justice Catherine Cahill to pay back $1 million in misappropriated funds.

Mr. Burke, who was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1970, has held his post on the Southampton Town Court since 2008—his term expires on December 31, 2015. He previously served in the same position from 1994 to 2000 and as a judge on the Court of Claims and a Supreme Court justice from 2000 until 2007.

In its determination, the commission found that Mr. Burke’s conduct while presiding over a D.W.I case “breached the appropriate boundaries between a judge and a litigant and thereby created ‘a very public appearance of impropriety,’ which adversely affects public confidence in the judiciary as a whole.”

According to the determination, over the span of two years Mr. Burke had imposed excessive fines in over 200 traffic cases involving plea agreements, undeterred by the court clerk’s advice that they were unlawfully high. The commission stated that the clerk’s warnings should have put Mr. Burke “on notice of an important issue and should have prompted him to make sure he was acting in compliance with the law.”

The judge was cited for improper political contributions made by both his law firm and business, which amounted to $7,500. The commission also condemned him for “laudatory descriptions of his ability and reputation as a judge” on his law firm’s personal website.

Mr. Burke’s attorney, Paul Schechtman of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, said “these were isolated mistakes in a 20-year career of distinguished judicial service that Judge Burke is pleased to continue.”

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5 Responses to “Southampton Town Judge Censured”

  1. Arnold Timer says:

    Wow! I’m sure the good citizens of Southampton Town are shocked!

  2. E.M. Maxx says:

    All I care about is CA-SHILL……….PUT THAT P.O.S IN JAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. S Kaufman says:

    In your article, Ed Burke’s well connected lawyer claims these instances of his client’s unethical conduct cited by the Commission on Judicial Conduct were merely isolated examples. Isn’t it astounding how the ones they get caught for are always the only acts of corruption they ever did?!

    I have had 2 experiences with Judge Ed Burke that I’d like to share. A little background:
    In the late 70′s, I fought against the Republican town board’s proposal to remove the protective aquifer protection zoning so a connected developer, Bob Rubin, who had bought the 516 pristine acres at the famous Bridgehampton Racetrack for a song due to the highly restrictive zoning, could build the pesticide-laden, incredibly exclusive Golf at the Bridge on top of the deepest recharge area of the sole source of our precious drinking water.
    I became very politically active with the Democratic Party as a result of my community activism.

    A few years later, fearful that I would expose the disarray within the town’s Democratic Party during a heated election season where the then-Party Chair, Melissa Bishop Morgan , right before she left on vacation to Florida, ordered the then-Democratic candidate, Elaine Fox, to drop out of the race, thus allowing the Republican candidate for town supervisor to run unopposed, Democratic Vice Chair Marion Boden, who knew me personally for many years, brought false criminal charges against me claiming that I had “threatened” her over the phone.

    I was arrested. Ed Burke, whose petition Bishop-Morgan had begged me to carry on behalf of the Democratic Party, and who had been aware of me over the years for my environmental and community activism, was my trial judge. I represented myself. There was a hung jury. The jury went back to try again. But late Friday afternoon, the jury did not want to return to that stuffy, hot, windowless basement courtroom on Monday, so although as one juror later told me she thought “you probably did not threaten her”, this jury unanimously convicted me “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

    Ed Burke was to sentence me a few months later. Two weeks or so before my sentencing date, I was going to Emporium Hardware in Sag Harbor; in my peripheral vision, I was aware of someone approaching from the other direction. We reached the door at the same time and he put his arm over my shoulder. Startled, I looked up to see Judge Burke, who had grown a beard so I hadn’t immediately recognized him.
    “How you doing?” he smiled. “Well, to be honest, a little nervous about my upcoming sentencing”, I replied. “Oh, don’t worry” he said with a conspiratorial wink, “you know what to do”.

    Huh? I know what to do? What….Oh!! Of course!! He means I should make a Clayton motion – to dismiss in the interests of justice. What else could he possibly mean?
    I wrote a very good motion. But to my shock, he summarily dismissed it! To this day I still puzzle over what exactly he meant by “don’t worry, you know what to do,” because making the post trial motion obviously wasn’t it.

    Upon appeal, the case was reversed – and outright dismissed -because of errors made by the trial judge – this cost me over $10,000.00.

    The second incident occurred a few years later. After he was elevated to the Supreme Court, Ed Burke attempted to take public land at Long Beach and claim it as his. I wrote a strong letter to the Express and/or Press opposing this public official’s attempt to take public property.

    Early Sunday morning of the week the paper was published, family members staying at my house were surprised when, as they were sitting down for breakfast, a strange man appeared at my back door looking for me. I was out of town.

    He introduced himself to my startled relatives – he was Judge Ed Burke. He left this number 516-885-7420 for me to call. I never did but kept the paper all these years.
    But how did he know where I lived? You can’t imagine how incredibly intimidating it feels to have a powerful Supreme Court judge find out where you live and, unannounced, come to the back door of your home early one weekend morning just after you publicly spoke out against his public land grab scheme.

    It is incredibly rare for the judicial conduct commission’s administrator to recommend removal. And be aware thst 98% or so of the complaints they get are whitewashed and summarily dismissed. Incredibly strong evidence must have been presented here – and his lawyer must have worked mighty hard to get all the charges reduced to these minor ones – and arrange a deal for a nonsense censure.

    And one last thing I need to clarify: the complaining witness at my criminal trial, Marion Boden, was the Vice Chair of the political party upon whose line Ed Burke, the judge at my criminal trial, had just run for re-election!!

    Marion Boden also headed other organizations, like Hampton Bays Civil association, always writing letters, attending many meetings all over town and being incredibly active in general, a real-life energizer bunny.

    At my trial, I learned why all the hours she spent in these activities did did not interfere with her real job – because she didn’t have one.

    She testified at my trial that she had convinced the government she was unable to engage in “gainful” employment – and therefore received full Social Security disability benefits – courtesy of my hard work and MY paying taxes!!

    Am I now afraid of retribution, of Ed Burke or perhaps a surrogate suddenly appearing one morning at my back door? Yes, a little. At the time, I told a few people. But perhaps if I wasn’t so intimidated, I would have spoken out sooner. But it’s hard to go against the connected and powerful. And I have the scars to prove it.

    But we should never stop trying to push that boulder up that mountain, no matter how overwhelming and hopeless it seems. Yes, Ed Burke should have been removed and, in my opinion, disbarred for being unethical and for violating the sacred public trust. But at least now his credibility is forever tainted. Better than nothing, I suppose.

  4. S Kaufman says:

    Re: my comment above. This all happened in the the late 1990′s, not 1970′s.
    Sorry for any confusion.

  5. E.M. Maxx says:

    So freakin gross these so called “judges” ….the most dangerous criminals out there!!!!!!

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