An Albany City Court judge has agreed to resign after 10 of 13 misconduct charges against him were upheld in an administrative proceeding.
In an announcement Monday, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct said Judge Thomas Keefe agreed to resign and never seek judicial office again.
Keefe, a Democrat, was said to have made undignified remarks about the county prosecutors' plea deals, dismissed misdemeanor charges without a defense motion, talked to defendants outside court and directed one defendant not to call her attorney for a week.
Mark Mishler is one of the attorneys representing Keefe. "What we think is really important for the public to understand is that the commission on judicial conduct has actually made no findings and has made no determination of any kind regarding the allegations against Judge Keefe. In fact, the agreement that was reached very clearly says that the commission has not considered these allegations and has not made any decision against Judge Keefe. These were allegations. Some of which are factually inaccurate, and we expect, that had we fought this out, we would have been successful in regard to many of these allegations."
The New York Daily News cites court documents that say on several occasions Keefe "lashed out at prosecutors over proposed plea bargains, using ‘discourteous and undignified’ language to express his anger."
Mishler: "There is no question that there are times when judge Keefe said inappropriate things in court. The public has a right to expect that judges won't say inappropriate things in court, and we take that seriously, however, none of those situations should result in his removal, and most of those situations involve instances where he was quite frustrated in dealing with policies and practices of the district attorney's office that he believed were not proper."
Keefe, in his resignation letter to Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, says it follows his transfer from criminal to civil court following complaints by District Attorney David Soares' office to the commission.
Soares provided WAMC with this statement:
“I am aware of the stipulation entered into by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct and Judge Thomas K. Keefe. My office will be reviewing all pertinent cases to determine if any corrective actions need to be taken. We invite others who may have been affected to contact us through their counsel.”
Attorney Jim Long, an election lawyer and candidate for the Albany City Court Judge seat being vacated by current Albany City Court Judge and County Judge candidate William Carter, thinks Keefe's resignation shortchanges voters. "It takes the choice of the next city court judge out of the voters' hand. They'll have an appointment and I'm sure the mayor will appoint a qualified individual, but that person is appointed and serves for a year before the voters get to weigh in on their choice."
Long adds he is disappointed in what he calls "manipulation of the electoral calendar."
Keefe, who first took office in 2003, says he misses the work he did there ensuring defendants were represented at arraignments by lawyers and helping to get their lives back on track, with referrals to treatment. Again, Mark Mishler: "He is known as a judge who is very compassionate and dedicated any very hard-working. He cares deeply about the people that appear in front of him and he's known as a judge who always looks for solutions to problems that people are facing."
Judge Keefe Retirement Letter on Scribd