A Clinton County town court justice agreed to never seek or accept a position on the bench again, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct announced Monday.
Kenneth Lafave, who is not an attorney, resigned from the bench on March 20, after receiving a formal written complain a month earlier. The complaint contained a single charge alleging that Lafave failed to be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence.
The complaint said that, during a 2016 eviction case, Lafave made inappropriate statements to litigants and counsel on one side of the proceeding and initiated and considered ex parte communications. According to commission filings, Lafave signed a warrant of eviction without holding a hearing and without the landlord properly commencing eviction proceedings.
Later, Lafave held a hearing in the matter, where he failed to administer the oath to witnesses, improperly ordered the tenants to vacate the rental property and unlawfully awarded their security deposit to the landlord. Lafave told the tenants’ attorney he felt they were untrustworthy during one ex parte exchange while threatening one of the tenants with reinstating the warrant of eviction and “rudely demanded” to know where the person was living during another.
“A judge must be and appear fair and impartial,” Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian said in a statement. “Public confidence in the courts is undermined when a judge has unpermitted communications with only one side in a case, acts discourteously or makes statements indicating bias against participants.”
Lafave began serving as a justice of the Ellenburg Town Court in 2013. His term was set to expire at the end of 2020. He was represented in his proceedings with the commission by private attorney William Meconi, who was not available for comment.