On Friday, the Commission on Judicial Conduct disciplined two judges. In the first case, the commission recommended the censure of Suffolk County District Court Judge Paul Hensley for participating in for-profit poker games at a social club, which is illegal by nature. The games had taken place in 2008, required $120 entry fees and prizes ran up to $1250. Hensley was celebrating his 2008 election victory at the club when the local police ended the celebrations by executing a search warrant and arresting the host of the poker games.
Hensley was not arrested or charged since playing for-profit poker games is not a crime though running them is illegal. However, the commission said that since other players knew Hensley was a judge, his presence in the games “gave his judicial imprimatur to this unlawful activity.” Hensley has been in the practice of law since 1987, and has served as a judge in Suffolk since 2002. He has thirty days from the receipt of the commission's decision to request a review in the Court of Appeals.
However Hensley's attorney, David Besso said that his client will not appeal the determination. He said, “The judge used poor judgment in his outside activities, but his integrity on the bench was never questioned.”
In another decision published on Friday, the Commission on Judicial Conduct found Brian Mercy, a justice in Glenville and an acting justice in the village of Scotia had represented clients in seven cases in the nearby town of Niskayuna before two judges who were also practicing attorneys. The commission held that Mercy had violated Section 100.6(B) of the state's Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, which prohibits attorneys who serve as judges in the same county from representing clients in front of each other. Both Glenville and Scotia are in the Schenectady County, north of Albany.
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The commission observed that Mercy “should have recognized the impropriety of any involvement in these seven matters, which he handled in the 17 months after becoming a judge” in 2008 and 2009. Though Mercy did not personally appear in the cases before the court, he did enter pleas and negotiated with the prosecutors. In one case, Mercy sent his wife, attorney Megan Mercy, to court.
The commission observed, “The prohibition against the practice of law provides no exception for correspondence, telephone calls, or other aspects of legal representation.” Mercy agreed with the decision of the commission to admonish him. He, too, has 30 days to go for appeal if he wants, otherwise the decision of the commission in the matter becomes binding.