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Disciplinary action taken against three judges

The Commission on Judicial Conduct has released three determinations of public discipline against judges of the State Unified Court System.

It found that:

• Paul G. Buchanan, a judge of the Family Court, Erie County, should be censured for making an ex parte hospital visit to a party in a pending juvenile delinquency proceeding, discourtesy in court and denying due process in a custody case. In 2009, Judge Buchanan visited a 14-year-old girl, over whose juvenile delinquency case he was presiding, in the psychiatric unit of a hospital. On two separate occasions in 2009 and 2010, the judge was discourteous to an attorney and a probation officer who appeared before him. In another 2010 case, the judge refused to allow for cross-examination of parties during a custody hearing.

• James A. McLeod, a judge of the Buffalo City Court, should be admonished for speaking to a defendant in a crude and offensive manner and undermining the decorum of the courtroom. In 2011, while presiding over two cases involving a 17-year-old defendant who addressed Judge McLeod using foul language, laced with racial slurs, the judge proceeded to engage in a series of vulgar and inappropriate exchanges with the defendant. Without allocuting the defendant or having him enter a plea of guilty, the judge convicted the teen in both cases.

• Douglas Brian Horton, a justice of the Mexico Town Court (Oswego County) should be admonished for engaging in a physical altercation with his longtime girlfriend. In 2010, during a volunteer fire department annual dinner at a local restaurant, the judge was involved in an altercation with his then-girlfriend in the foyer of the restaurant. During the argument, Judge Horton grabbed the woman and pushed her, causing her to fall to the floor. She was not injured and no criminal charges were filed.

Copies of the commission’s determinations are also available on the commission’s website, www.cjc.ny.gov.

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