The Commission on Judicial Conduct has cleared the presiding justice of the First Department Appellate Division, Judge Luis Gonzalez, of all charges of misconduct in connection with allegations that he improperly made attestations on certain mortgage documents, improperly permitted the private practice of law by his executive assistant, permitted a “no-show” job and engaged in nepotism and favoritism in hiring certain individuals. The Commission of Judicial Conduct felt it appropriate to dismiss the charges after conducting a detailed and thorough investigation which included review of hundreds of pages of documents, interviews of more than 50 witnesses and two days of questioning of Judge Gonzalez himself. In dismissing the charges, the Commission’s report made clear that the Judge’s testimony was forthright and credible. The Commission did make recommendations to the Administrative Board of the Courts that they collectively examine the hiring practices of the Appellate Divisions and devise, among other things, a uniform and comprehensive guideline for hiring practices which would avoid nepotism and favoritism and promote merit.
Ben Rubinowitz, the lawyer representing Judge Gonzalez, said,
“I am pleased to see that after the Commission on Judicial Conduct conducted an extensive investigation prompted, in large part by baseless rumors, it has cleared Judge Gonzalez of any wrongdoing.
It is indeed unfortunate that the investigation was even made necessary in the first place by the careless initiation of rumors by certain individuals that were further compounded by their publication in various newspapers.
It is equally unfortunate that these so-called “sources of information” jumped to erroneous conclusions about Judge Gonzalez without knowing the true facts. As noted by the Commission’s report, the issues raised were “highly publicized” and “the subject of widespread and often inaccurate speculation…”
Judge Gonzalez respects and accepts the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Conduct and believes that the significant public policy implications of the hiring practices at the Appellate Divisions raised by this investigation required his full cooperation with the Commission’s investigation and his waiver of confidentiality. Like the Commission, Judge Gonzalez believes that the issues that were raised by this investigation warranted public disclosure, comment and system-wide reform.
Judge Gonzalez is a fine jurist and tremendous asset to the bench. As the Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division he will continue in his efforts to serve the public well.”
On April 3, 2012, a day after the Commission’s Report was issued, the Administrative Board of the Courts voted to unanimously adopt the panel’s recommendations and to implement new procedures for hiring. Robert Tembeckjian, counsel to the Judicial Conduct Commission, stated, ” The prompt and positive action by the Chief Judge and the Administrative Board will certainly enhance public confidence in the Courts.” Mr. Rubinowitz agreed explaining “uniformity and direction will allow for better hiring practices and the adoption of this recommendation will serve the public well.”
Mr Rubinowitz stated that he was honored to represent the Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division. Ben Rubinowitz is a partner at Gair Gair Conason Steigman Mackauf Bloom and Rubinowitz and specializes in the representation of individuals who have been seriously injured as a result of automobile , construction and premises accidents as well as medical malpractice, products liability and civil rights claims.