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For the first time in its history, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct has disciplined a judge for flat-out failing to do his job. In a determination released Thursday, the commission called for the removal of North Hudson Town Justice Glenn T. Fiore of Essex County, who abandoned his judicial position to take a yearlong position as a truck driver in Iraq. Justice Fiore continued to draw his $10,000 a year judicial salary, leaving North Hudson, where he was elected, without a town judge. The town had to pay a neighboring judge to handle matters within its borders while Justice Fiore worked for a private subsidiary of the Halliburton Corp. Records show that Fiore returned from Iraq after four months, indicating that he was giving up his private position to resume his judicial duties. However, he did not resume his position and ultimately resigned under pressure last month for what he said were patriotic reasons. “It is with great satisfaction that I am resigning my elected position of Town Justice,” he wrote in a letter to the North Hudson Town Board. He said in the letter that the board, by complaining of his absence, had “revealed its true nature and color.” He expressed a preference to “serve the boots on the ground” rather than his constituents. “You people use words like honor, integrity, independence while the people I work with embody those very words,” Fiore wrote. “Have any of you done anything for your country lately? I bet not. Thank GOD we don’t have people like you defending this nation. … Sleep well, the true Patriots are protecting you.” Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian said the matter has nothing to do with patriotism or the war in Iraq. “It is simply about a judge who abandoned his post for paid private employment overseas, leaving his town without a judge, while still collecting his judicial salary,” Tembeckjian said. Tembeckjian said the commission has never before taken action against a judge for neglecting to show up for work. The commission, in its determination, noted that the state Constitution empowers the panel to discipline a judge for “persistent failure to perform his duties.” Additionally, it said �100.3(A) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct require that the judicial duties of a judge take precedence over other interests. “Respondent’s flagrant, voluntary abandonment of his judicial position in order to pursue other employment requires the sanction of removal,” the commission said in a 10-0 determination. The panel noted that Justice Fiore apparently planned to have his son, who was also his clerk, cover for him and to perform judicial duties when the judge was home on vacation. However, he apparently never sought an ethics opinion or court administration approval of that plan. “It would appear that his motive was to draw two salaries, one as a judge and the other as a [civilian] employee in Iraq,” the commission said. “His conduct is inexcusable and in no way justified by his professed patriotism or support of the war effort.” Under the order, Fiore is barred from holding judicial office in the future. Fiore was censured in 1998 for claiming on campaign literature that he was the “senior associate” at a law firm, Muller & Muller in Glens Falls. Actually, Justice Fiore was licensed to represent clients before the Workers’ Compensation Board and permitted to represent individuals before the Social Security Administration. He is not licensed to practice law. John T. Wilkins of Wilkins & Griffin in Lake Placid represented Fiore, but did not appear at oral argument before the commission. Appearing for the commission were staff attorneys Cathleen S. Cenci and Kathryn J. Blake.

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