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A Queens, N.Y., judge who caused an uproar last week when she helped a suspect avoid arrest in her courtroom was transferred from criminal court to civil court Monday pending an investigation by the Commission on Judicial Conduct. As word of the transfer spread, the judge’s critics, including the mayor’s office, filed complaints to the conduct commission and continued to press for her removal from the bench. The Office of Court Administration announced Monday that the judge, Supreme Court Justice Laura D. Blackburne, had agreed to an immediate transfer to take the spotlight off the drug court over which she had presided. “There’s a great deal of attention that’s being focused on Justice Blackburne,” said David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration. “It would be best for the court, especially the litigants, that the judge sitting in that part not be distracted.” Bookstaver said Blackburne agreed to the transfer after a discussion with Queens Administrative Judge Leslie G. Leach and Jonathan Lippmann, the chief administrative judge. Investigations by the Commission on Judicial Conduct are not public, but it seemed certain Monday that the office would immediately investigate the judge’s actions. Robert Tembeckjian, the commission’s administrator, confirmed that his office had received complaints from the office of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as well as Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, and Michael J. Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association. The mayor’s office released a copy of its complaint, in which Carol A. Robles-Roman, deputy mayor for legal affairs, indicated that the administration wanted Blackburne removed from the bench. “Although we understand that Judge Blackburne has been reassigned to the Civil Term, we cannot have a member of the bench obstructing and endangering the lives of New Yorkers,” Robles-Roman wrote. Lynch issued a statement saying Blackburne was prejudiced against the law enforcement community and “should not be on any bench.” Tembeckjian would not say that the conduct commission would open an investigation into the judge. He said the group’s next scheduled meeting is Thursday. Blackburne did not return a call seeking comment. During a routine hearing last week for a defendant enrolled in a drug treatment program, Blackburne expressed anger over the presence of a police detective in her courtroom. The judge said the detective “came to this court under the ruse of wanting to ask questions” when he in fact wanted to arrest the defendant, Derek Sterling, in connection with a robbery. The judge said she resented the officer’s conduct and asked a court officer to escort Sterling out a side door to avoid the detective. “I’m not trying to keep you from being arrested,” the judge told Sterling. “I’m trying to keep you from being arrested today in my courtroom based on obvious misrepresentation on the part of the detective.” She told Sterling to surrender if he was later approached with an arrest warrant. He has since been arrested. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly immediately attacked Justice Blackburne’s conduct, reportedly saying it was “outrageous by any measure.” Defense attorney Ronald L. Kuby came to Blackburne’s defense Monday, saying she had been punished without the full findings of an investigation and unfairly targeted for abuse by the police and mayor. “It’s particularly unfortunate that Judge Blackburne is being penalized because she refused to be lied to,” Kuby said. “It’s not a good day for judicial independence.” Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse, the president of the citywide association for Supreme Court justices, declined to comment on Blackburne’s predicament. Blackburne has infuriated the law enforcement community in the past. Two years ago she dismissed an indictment against a man accused of shooting a police officer after finding that Queens prosecutors had taken too long to bring the case to trial. At the time, the law enforcement community called for Blackburne’s resignation and accused her of having a bias against police officers. The defendant in that case, William Hodges, is currently on trial for biting a police officer while resisting a subsequent arrest. An appeal of Blackburne’s speedy trial ruling was argued in the Appellate Division, 2nd Department in April and has yet to be decided. Bookstaver said Supreme Court Justice Gregory L. Lasak would preside over the drug court for the time being.

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