New York State Commission on Judicial Justice Determines Mount Vernon City Court Judge William “Bill” Edwards Should Be Censured

eHezi History, Law, Mt. Vernon, New York State, People, Westchester County, NY 2 Comments

MOUNT VERNON, NY — January 11, 2020 — In a determination dated December 20, 2019, and made public yesterday upon completion of statutory notice requirements, The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that William Edwards, a full-time Judge of the Mount Vernon City Court, Westchester County, should be censured for appearing as his daughter’s attorney on three occasions in an Upstate New York court and for repeatedly and gratuitously identifying himself as a judge during the proceedings.

Judge Edwards agreed to the censure.

Full-time judges are prohibited from practicing law by the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. Nevertheless, on three occasions between November 2015 and April 2016, Judge Edwards appeared and acted as his daughter’s attorney in an upstate Family Court matter. During two of those appearances, Judge Edwards repeatedly made comments to the presiding judge identifying himself as a judge.

In May 2016, after Judge Edwards was informed by his Supervising Judge that as a full-time judge he could not practice law, he immediately retained an attorney for his daughter.

The Commission said that Judge Edwards’s conduct “comes close to warranting removal,” but censure was appropriate because he has “admitted that his conduct warrants public discipline” and because the Commission believes he will strictly abide by all the Rules from now on.

Judge Edwards has served as a Judge of the Mount Vernon City Court since 2003. His current term expires on December 31, 2023.

Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian made the following statement: 

“It is bad enough for a full-time judge to practice law, even on behalf of a family member. Repeatedly mentioning one’s own judicial status during the proceedings compounds the original misconduct and comes across as an obvious attempt to influence the trial judge. Here, Judge Edwards has admitted wrongdoing, and the Commission believes he deserves another chance.”

The Commission Proceedings:

Judge Edwards was served with a Formal Written Complaint dated June 15, 2018, containing one charge and filed an Answer dated August 3, 2018.

On September 4, 2019, the Administrator of the Commission, Judge Edwards and his attorney entered into an Agreed Statement of Facts, stipulating to the facts and sanction and waiving further submissions and oral argument.

The Commission accepted the Agreed Statement on December 5, 2019.

The Commission Determination:

The Commission filed a determination dated December 20, 2019, in which ten members concurred: Joseph W. Belluck, Esq. (the Commission Chair), Paul B. Harding, Esq. (the Vice Chair), Jodie Corngold, Judge John A. Falk, Taa Grays, Esq., Judge Leslie G. Leach, Judge Angela M. Mazzarelli, Judge Robert J. Miller, Marvin Ray Raskin, Esq., and Akosua Garcia Yeboah. Mr. Raskin filed an opinion dissenting as to the sanction, voting that the judge should be removed from office.

There is currently one vacancy on the 11-member Commission.

Court of Appeals Review

The Commission transmitted its determination to the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, pursuant to Judiciary Law Section 44, subdivision 7. Judge Edwards received it on December 23, 2019, and the Commission was subsequently notified by the Court of Appeals that service was complete. Consequently, the matter is now public.

A judge may either accept the Commission’s determination or, within 30 days from receipt, make a written request to the Chief Judge for a review of the determination by the Court of Appeals.

Pursuant to Judiciary Law Section 44, subdivision 7, if Judge Edwards does not request review by the Court of Appeals, the Commission will censure him in accordance with the determination.

If a Commission determination is reviewed by the Court of Appeals, the Court may accept the determined sanction, impose a different sanction including admonition, censure or removal, or impose no sanction.

Statistics Relating to Prior Determinations

Since 1978, the Commission has issued 329 determinations of censure against judges in New York State. The Commission has issued 173 determinations of removal and 272 determinations of admonition.

The Court of Appeals has reviewed 99 Commission determinations. The Court accepted the Commission’s sanctions in 83 cases (74 of which were removals, six were censures and three were admonitions). Of the remaining 16 cases, two sanctions were increased from censure to removal, and 13 were reduced: nine removal determinations were modified to censure, one removal was modified to admonition, two censures were modified to admonition, and one censure was rejected and the charges dismissed. The Court remitted one matter to the Commission for further proceedings. One request for review is pending.

Counsel

In the proceedings before the Commission, Judge Edwards was represented by Amy L. Bellantoni, Esq., 2 Overhill Road, Suite 400, Scarsdale, New York 10583, (914) 367-0090.

The Commission was represented by Robert H. Tembeckjian, Administrator and Counsel to the Commission; Mark Levine, Deputy Administrator in Charge of the New York City office; and Senior Attorney Brenda Correa. Investigator Andrew Zagami assisted in the investigation.

Background Information on Judge Edwards:

Judge Edwards has served as a Judge of the Mount Vernon City Court since 2003.  His current term expires on December 31, 2023.

Documents In the Case:

Documents, as well as the Agreed Statement of Facts between Judge Edwards and Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian, are available on the Commission’s website: www.cjc.ny.gov.

eHeziNew York State Commission on Judicial Justice Determines Mount Vernon City Court Judge William “Bill” Edwards Should Be Censured

Comments 2

  1. Poor guy was defending his daughter in family court. Leave him alone. Go bother the Spanos, who have no concern for appearance of impropriety.

  2. I think they should give judge Edaward another chance I done read about other judges done more serious things. Let judge Edaward stay.

Leave a Reply

This comment will be displayed anonymously. Your name and email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.