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A Criminal Court judge in Brooklyn was censured by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct Monday for coming off the bench and accosting an attorney. The commission’s staff had urged the removal of Judge Richard N. Allman as an appropriate sanction. But in voting instead for public censure, nine commission members cited Allman’s quick amends for “an isolated lapse.” The commission’s remaining two members voted to admonish the judge, a less serious form of public criticism. Through his lawyer, Andrea G. Hirsch, Judge Allman said he has “learned from the experience and looks forward to continuing his judicial career.” Because the two sides had stipulated to the underlying facts, the only dispute in the case was over the sanction. In coming off the bench and grabbing a Legal Aid Society lawyer by the arms, the commission wrote, Allman crossed a line from “verbal to physical confrontation” that is “not just improper, but fundamentally inimical to the role of a judge.” The incident occurred in Brooklyn Criminal Court on June 8, 2004, when Allman was presiding over three calendars. He was handling the calendar for his domestic violence part as well as the calendars of two judges assigned to all-purpose parts who were attending a seminar. According to the record, Allman became angry when the Legal Aid lawyer, Steven Terry, sought to prevent the judge from directly questioning his client, who was voluntarily in court after receiving a fourth warrant issued because he owed money on a fine. In the ensuing exchange, Allman angrily asked, “Did you go to law school, Mr. Terry? Did you go to law school, yes or no?” Before Terry answered, Allman called a recess. He then came down from the bench into the well of the courtroom and grabbed Terry by the arms. After Terry protested, the judge let him go and yelled, “This is my courtroom! You will do what I want you to in my courtroom! Do you understand?” Despite “highly improper and utterly inexcusable conduct,” the commission determined that a censure was the appropriate sanction, mainly because of the rapid steps Allman took to apologize. Within minutes, the majority wrote, Allman recognized his error and called both Terry and Terry’s supervisor to apologize. The judge also apologized personally to everyone in the courtroom that he could recall. The next day, Allman formally apologized in court on the record before an audience that included a number of Legal Aid lawyers, the ruling stated. The majority also noted that, aside from the incident before it, Allman had “an otherwise unblemished record” and had served “for six years with diligence and dedication.” Two commissioners, Steven R. Coffey and Alan J. Pope, would have limited the sanction to an admonishment because Allman “has already excoriated himself and has demonstrated that he understands what he did was improper.” REMOVAL RECOMMENDED In pressing for removal, the commission staff contended that had the roles been reversed, Terry would very likely have been disbarred for “physically confronting the judge.” “As shocking as it would be for a lawyer to physically accost a judge,” a brief submitted by commission staff stated, “it is worse when the judge is the wrongdoer.” Moreover, the brief added, as a judge presiding in a domestic violence part, Allman might have issued an order of protection to prevent the very conduct he exhibited in his courtroom. There is an “irony,” the brief noted, in a judge’s presiding over “domestic violence cases while in need of personal anger management.” The commission was represented by Robert H. Tembeckjian, its administrator and counsel, and by staff attorneys Melissa R. DiPalo and Vickie Ma.

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