New York’s judicial watchdog voted to censure Westchester County Supreme Court Justice Linda S. Jamieson for failing to disclose a cash loan she made to an associate, a rare rebuke for a sitting judge.
In recommending his censure, the Judicial Ethics Commission also found that Jamieson pressured an attorney representing the partner to facilitate the collection of the loan.
“Judge Jamieson’s intentional failure to declare a cash loan of $50,000, for 13 years, was staggering and her explanations were unsatisfactory,” CJC Administrator Robert Tembeckjian said in a statement. . “She seriously compounded her initial misconduct by trying to pressure the debtor’s attorney to omit the loan from her bankruptcy filing.”
The committee’s vote, which took place in February but was made public on Monday, was not unanimous. Four members instead voted to remove Jamieson from office.
Joshua Reuven Katz, a matrimonial attorney who serves on the state bar association’s Court Discipline Proceedings Committee, notes that censorship usually consists of “a warning letter to the judge.”
“It’s public and it goes on their file,” he explained.
Jamieson is a longtime judge in Westchester County. She became a family court judge in 1998 and later won a seat on the state Supreme Court, where she has served since 2003. Her current term is due to expire in 2030.
Jamieson can appeal the commission’s decision within 30 days to the Court of Appeal. If she does not, the decision becomes final.
In an emailed statement, a lawyer for Jamieson expressed regret for his conduct, but confirmed the judge’s commitment to continue his service on the bench.
“Judge Jamieson is sorry for all the mistakes she made,” said Richard Maltz. “However, she wishes to continue in public service as an accomplished and active Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, as she has been for many years.”
In 2005, according to the commission, Jamieson lent Nicholas Natrella $50,000 in cash for use in a business venture.
However, in subsequent years, the full balance of the loan was not repaid.
New York State judges are required to file annual financial disclosure statements with the Justice System Ethics Commission. The form prescribed by the commission requires judges to disclose debts worth more than $1,000.
The commission says it was not until October 2019, three months after receiving a formal complaint about the omissions, that Jamieson decided to amend years of financial reports to include the loan.
During Jamieson’s disciplinary proceedings, she admitted that her conduct “was stupid because I never really took those forms seriously. Now I do.”
Monday’s report also revealed that Jamieson enlisted close associates to convince Natrella to formally acknowledge the loan was in default before calling Natrella’s attorney herself.
The report says Jamieson asked his significant other and a friend to contact Natrella on his behalf. Jamieson wanted Natrella to sign a judgment that would make it easier to collect the loan without having to go to court.
In 2014, Jamieson phoned Natrella attorney Anne Penachio, who was aware of Jamieson’s status as a public official because Penachio had been involved in a case before Jamieson the previous year.
The commission found that Penachio “felt compelled to obtain a judgment confession” from Natrella. During the call, Jamieson also suggested that Penachio omit the $50,000 loan from Natrella’s bankruptcy filing, the commission said.
In return, Penachio informed her that “the law required that all creditors be listed”.
New York State rules governing judicial conduct state that judges “shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge.”
Since 2000, the commission has only recommended discipline against 21 Westchester County judges, according to official statistics.
Katz, of the bar association’s judicial discipline committee, said that in New York, public discipline of judges is a relatively rare occurrence.
“The commission has hundreds of complaints to review across the state,” he observed. “Among those they investigate, it is very rare that they actually sanction.”