Breaking: Commission recommends removing Family Court Judge Rick Miller

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UPDATE: The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct posted a news release to its website today recommending his removal on the basis of several acts of misconduct.

They include repeatedly making sexist and otherwise demeaning statements to a female court clerk, screaming at and belittling another female court clerk and then retaliating against her after she filed a complaint, and a variety of financial disclosure charges.

NewsChannel 34 reported in August 2017 that Miller had been put on leave and assigned other duties that did not involve hearing family court cases due to an investigation into workplace conduct.

Charges against Miller were first filed in July 2018.

During the interim, the remaining 3 Family Court Judges in Broome County have had to shoulder an increased case load, with another judge from neighboring Delaware County being brought in to hear some cases.

In December 2018, two employees who worked for Miller filed a civil suit against him alleging several offensive acts that they were forced to endure.

They included tricking them into seeing nude photos, including one of a co-worker, graphic and crude descriptions of sexual acts and the Judge’s own sexual desires, and repeatedly demanding that his female secretary satisfy his sexual needs.

Miller’s attorneys Paul DerOhannesian and Deborah Scalise released a statement to the media expressing his disappointment with the ruling and pointing out that 2 of the 9 commission members had dissented from the decision, favoring censure over removal.

The attorneys note that the allegations from the employees who are suing Miller were found to lack credibility and were not used to justify the removal.

They say Miller plans to appeal to the state Court of Appeals which means the case will likely drag on for many more months.

The son of the late Assemblyman Dick Miller became a Family Court Judge in 2015 and his term runs through 2024 with a salary of just over 200 thousand dollars per year.

Since taking office, he has spent more time on leave than hearing cases.

You can read the full Commission on Judicial Conduct release as well as his lawyers’ response here.

See the full press release on Miller below:

The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that Richard H. Miller, II, a Judge of the Family Court, Broome County, should be removed from office for engaging in numerous acts of misconduct:

 repeatedly making sexist and otherwise demeaning statements to a widowed female court clerk, such as:

 “You look really hot in that outfit. You should always wear that outfit”;

 “If I knew you could also cook, I would have gone for the widow”; and

 “It’s nice to know I still have that effect on you” (in response to her apologizing for using a fan during a hot flash).

 screaming at and otherwise belittling another female court clerk and retaliating by filing a complaint against her after she complained about his having berated and demeaned her;

 failing to report and pay taxes on $34,788 on his 2015 federal and state tax returns – $27,388 of which was income from his prior law practice and $7,400 of which was income from rental properties;

 failing to report $15,600 in income from rental properties on his 2016 federal and state tax returns;

 failing to report $15,600 in income from rental properties on his 2017 federal and state tax returns;

 failing to report to the Broome County Court Clerk the $34,788 in extrajudicial income in 2015, the $15,600 in 2016 and the $15,600 in 2017

 failing to disclose the $27,388 in law-practice income on his 2015 or 2016 mandatory financial disclosure forms; and

 having his court secretary prepare a letter concerning his prior legal work. Judge Miller filed amended tax returns, and only after the Commission proceedings against him had commenced, amended his financial disclosure forms and filed a report with the clerk of his court.

The Commission found that he failed to take responsibility for his misconduct, and it found his excuses “implausible.”

Prior Discipline In 2002 Judge Miller was censured for presiding over a client’s case and representing defendants in cases originating in his court, practicing law in his court, and sending notices threatening arrest to a defendant in a civil case.

In 2015 the judge was privately cautioned for distributing and displaying misleading campaign signs implying he was the incumbent Family Court judge.

The Totality of the Misconduct In determining to remove Judge Miller from office, the Commission concluded that the “[totality] of [his] current misconduct, his apparent failure to learn from his previous discipline, his failure to take responsibility for his actions and the unfortunate message another censure would send to the public, we believe that respondent should be removed from the bench to protect the integrity of the courts.”

NEW YORK STATE COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT February 27, 2020 Page 3 Judge Miller has served as a Judge of the Family Court, Broome County since 2015.

His current term expires on December 31, 2024. Previously he served as a part-time Justice of the Union Town Court (Broome County) from 1996 to 2014, and as a parttime Justice of the Johnson City Village Court (Broome County) from 2002 to 2014.

Statement by Commission Administrator Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian made the following statement. “Judge Miller committed numerous acts of serious misconduct, any one of which would require stern public discipline.

Denigrating women and retaliating against one who complained, failing to report and pay taxes on significant sums of money, and failing to accept responsibility for his behavior, added to his prior disciplinary record, undermine public confidence in the courts and compel his removal from office.”

The Commission Proceedings Judge Miller was served with a Formal Written Complaint dated July 9, 2018, containing four charges, and filed an answer dated August 8, 2018.

The Commission designated Robert A. Barrer, Esq. as referee to hear and report proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.

A hearing was held on January 7-11, 2019 in Binghamton, New York and on February 12, 2019 in Albany, New York.

The referee filed a report dated June 20, 2019.

The parties submitted briefs with respect to the referee’s report and the issue of sanctions.

The Commission recommended that the referee’s findings and conclusions be confirmed in part and disaffirmed in part.

The judge recommended that the referee’s findings and conclusions be confirmed. Counsel to the Commission argued that the judge be removed from office.

The judge’s counsel argued that a sanction no greater than censure be imposed. On October 17, 2019, the Commission heard oral argument.

The Commission Determination The Commission filed a determination dated February 14, 2020, in which seven members concurred: Joseph W. Belluck, Esq. (the Commission Chair), Jodie Corngold, Judge John A. Falk, Taa Grays, Esq., Judge Leslie G. Leach, Judge Angela M. Mazzarelli, and Akosua Garcia Yeboah. NEW YORK STATE COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT February 27, 2020 Page 4 Paul B. Harding, Esq. (the Vice Chair) and Judge Robert J. Miller dissented as to the sanction, voting that the judge should be censured.

Judge Miller filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part in which Mr. Harding joined. One member, Marvin Ray Raskin, Esq. was not present.

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 Miller received it on February 24, 2020, 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 Miller does not request review by the Court of Appeals, the Court of Appeals will remove 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 174 determinations of removal against judges in New York State.

The Commission has issued 331 determinations of censure 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 Miller was represented by Paul DerOhannesian of DerOhannesian and DerOhannesian, 677 Broadway, Suite 707, Albany, New York, 12207, (518) 465-6420; and Deborah A. Scalise of Scalise & Hamilton, PC, 670 White Plains Road, Suite 325, Scarsdale, New York 10583, (914) 725-2801.

The Commission was represented by Robert H. Tembeckjian, Administrator and Counsel to the Commission; Cathleen S. Cenci, Deputy Administrator in Charge of the Albany office; Senior Attorney S. Peter Pedrotty, and former staff attorney Eteena Tadjiogueu. Investigator Laura Misjak was assigned to the case.

Background Information on Judge Miller First took office (Family Court): 2015 Current term expires: December 31, 2024 Year Admitted to NYS Bar: 1994 Salary: $200,400 Members of the Commission The Commission members serve four-year terms.

A list of members is appended.

The Public File The determination is attached.

The record of the proceedings upon which the determination is based is available for inspection by appointment during regular business hours at the Commission’s three offices: 61 Broadway Suite 1200 New York, New York 10006 Corning Tower, Suite 2301 Empire State Plaza Albany, New York 12223 400 Andrews Street Suite 700 Rochester, New York 14604

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