State Appeals court upholds Judge George’s removal from office
By Joe Moskowitz
Former Town of Middletown Justice Glen George never planned to return to the bench after his term of office ends on December 31, and now he has no choice. The New York State Court of Appeals has ruled that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct was correct when it ordered George removed from office.
The 74-year-old George, citing medical problems, hasn’t heard a case since last winter. On May 1, the commission ruled that he was unfit to serve on the bench and ordered him removed.
George challenged the decision and on November 14 presented his case to the Court of Appeals, but on December 10, the Court decided that George’s days as a judge were over.
George was a state trooper but in 1983 heart problems forced him to retire. He soon started working for Titan Drilling of Arkville and developed a business and personal relationship with Titan founder, Lynn Johnson and other members of the Johnson family.
George was elected Middletown Town Justice in 1985 and presided over four cases involving Joan Johnson, Lynn Johnson’s then daughter-in-law. The Commission on Judicial Conduct warned him not to hear any more cases involving members of the Johnson family. But he did preside over a case involving Lynn Johnson who had been ticketed for a seat-belt violation. In court, Johnson claimed the trooper listed the vehicle he was driving as a 1976 Mercedes when the title Johnson presented in court was for a 2000 Mercedes. George dismissed the ticket. Neither the trooper nor a prosecutor were in the courtroom at the time.
In the second case, Mike Guidice of Lynbrook and New Kingston had a property dispute with his neighbor, Ron Jenkins and considered legal action. Guidice claimed George spoke to him and Guidice felt after the conversation that he couldn’t get a fair trial in Middletown and decided not to sue. George later removed himself from the case.
The commission felt that the Johnson and Guidice cases were reason enough to remove George from the bench.
During his arguments to the Court of Appeals, George said that the Johnson ticket was for a minor offense and was not indicative of his behavior on the bench. The court agreed that while the seat belt violation was minor, the trooper and prosecutor should have been informed and he had already been warned about any cases involving the Johnsons.
George argued that in the Giudice case, he just wanted to determine if the matter was something that should have been pursued in court. The high court ruled that discussing the case outside of court was a very serious offense and in summary stated, “Under the circumstances, despite the petitioner’s (George’s) long tenure on the bench and commendable record as a state trooper, we concur with the Commission that removal is the appropriate sanction.”
Seven judges agreed with the majority. There was one dissenting opinion.
George remained on the Town of Middletown payroll during his appeal but heard no cases. All cases were handled by Justice Gary Rosa.
George did not seek re-election and would have been replaced at the start of the new year by Middletown Attorney John Fairbairn who was elected to the bench in November.
George told the News that he has no comment. When asked about the removal so close to his impending retirement he said, “They had to do that to remove me from the bench.”