Broome County Family Court Judge Spero Pines has been admonished by a state judicial watchdog agency for what it called sarcastic, angry and scolding language to people involved in three different child custody cases.
Pines said Thursday he cooperated and would not fight the state Commission on Judicial Conduct's decision to publicly reprimand him.
"I welcomed the commission's review of my 14-year tenure on the Family Court bench and I understand and accept their criticism of me in the three cases cited," Pines said in a written statement. "I am pleased that this matter has been concluded and look forward to continuing my service to the people and in particular the children of Broome County."
The commission said it recognized the litigants in all three cases has a long history in Family Court involving allegations of abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse and domestic violence, said James S. Gleason, Pines' attorney.
The cases included one father who, while serving a state prison sentence, sought custody of his child. Another case involved a couple, both in jail, at a custody hearing where the mother sought custody of her three children. A third case involved parents fighting for custody, documents indicate.
Gleason said investigators from the commission listened to hundreds of hours of transcripts from Pines' courtroom but found only the three cases worthy of criticism.
"There was no finding that the substantive rights of these litigants were abridged, only that he briefly lost his temper," Gleason said of the judge's behavior. The complaint to the commission was made anonymously, Gleason said.
Pines, a Democrat, is serving his second 10-year term as a judge. Elected in 1994, Pines' second term ends in 2013.
The commission reviews written complaints of misconduct against judges in local and state courts in New York. Admonishment is the mildest form of public rebuke. Penalties escalate to censure and removal from the bench.
"Anyone who knows Judge Pines recognizes his commitment to the best interests of the children who are involved in the cases before him," Gleason said. "I am sure that his remarks were borne of his frustration with the parents and the environment in which the children were being raised."
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Judge admonished for language in court pressconnects.com Press & Sun-Bulletin
Excerpts from Judge Spero Pines' courtroom transcripts pressconnects.com Press & Sun-Bulletin