Hudson Valley Judge Censured For Political Social Media Posts
The world of Social Media is a strange place. We as people have the ability to at any point or time we choose, connect to hundreds and thousands of people with a couple of taps on a screen. While that may have some advantages, it also has some disadvantages as one Hudson Valley Judge recently found out for themselves.
What We Know
Recently, according to the Town of Lloyd Justice Terry Elia was found to be on the other end of a verdict by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct for liking and sharing particularly charged social and political posts on LinkedIn. The Commission levied the penalty of "censure" against Judge Elia, which in relation to the courts, is the second greatest disciplinary action the, or any, commission can apply aside from removing the judge from the bench.
Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian was quoted saying “A judge must be and appear impartial, or public confidence in the integrity of the courts may be compromised....". Judge Elia agreed to the censure and issued this statement through his legal representation,
“It is with a heavy heart that I accept the determination of the commission which noted that I am not trained as a lawyer, but that I made certain errors relating to my conduct in my private life (via social media and volunteer work) which may negatively impact the public’s perception of the judiciary. For that, I am very sorry.”
Why This Is Serious
This is not the first case of its kind and I'm sure it will not be the last. In this particular instance, the NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct was undoubtedly correct in its verdict and punishment for Judge Elia. While I understand some people saying "well that was on his time, he wasn't in court" and while that may be true, the fact of the matter is the Judge is an elected official, he is a public figure and part of this job, in particular, is knowing that you will be held to a different standard, especially for things you like and say whether they are on social media or not.
In the case of being a judge, regardless of what side of the political or social spectrum you may reside on, the law and justice are supposed to be completely impartial. Having a judge or any public official openly indicate in one way or another where their own personal thoughts or feelings rest would give the interpretation by others that said the official would be incapable of remaining impartial.
In addition, Judge Elia agreeing with the Commission is also an indication that he recognizes the mistake he made.