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A Bronx Family Court judge and the state Commission on Judicial Conduct are engaged in hand-to-hand combat over disciplinary charges against the judge that may, in fact, never get resolved. The battle, which has surfaced publicly in the past, officially became public yesterday when Judge Marian R. Shelton ( See Profile) waived her right to confidentiality, opening to the public a proceeding at commission headquarters in lower Manhattan in which her lawyers had asked for the referee assigned to the case to recuse himself. The referee, Robert Strauss, a former chief counsel to the disciplinary committee overseeing lawyers in Brooklyn and Queens, denied the recusal motion, though Judge Shelton’s lawyer, Dean Yuzek, said he would take an appeal to the commission. With the waiver yesterday, both the commission’s 13-charge complaint and Judge Shelton’s answer became available to the public. The two documents contain a welter of charges and countercharges. The commission accuses Judge Shelton of rude, intemperate and demeaning treatment of litigants, lawyers and court personnel, including two judges. The commission also charges her with defying a directive from a supervisor, a directive Judge Shelton claims was never issued. Aside from disputing the specifics of the commission’s charges, sometimes with sworn statements from people in her courtroom, Judge Shelton broadly attacks the commission’s case as having been ginned up by Dennis Quirk, the combative president of the 1,500-member New York State Court Officers Association. The case first surfaced publicly when Judge Shelton lost a bid to have the commission’s probe enjoined ( NYLJ, Feb. 15, 2007). Since then, her husband, Saul Cohen, a retired Proskauer Rose partner, has financed through a group he founded two full-page ads in The New York Times attacking the commission and its chairman, Raoul Felder. The commission itself has expressed a lack of confidence in Mr. Felder because of his co-authorship of a humor book with comedian Jackie Mason that contains what some say are ethnic and racial barbs. Mr. Felder has recused himself from this case. Mr. Cohen, who had also been a partner at Rosenman Colin and former general counsel of Lehman Brothers, said in an interview yesterday that he had formed and financed the group, CANONS, because the work of the commission has been “tainted” by Mr. Felder’s continued presence. He also said he believed the commission had been “gamed” by Mr. Quirk and that his wife “could not get a fair hearing from the commission.” Adam Herbsman, a spokesman for the judge, said the two ads cost $78,500. Year End Deadline? Judge Shelton’s attorney, Mr. Yuzek, of Ingram Yuzek Gainen Carroll & Bertolotti, said yesterday that Judge Shelton, 52, has not applied for re-appointment when her term expires at the end of the year. Judge Shelton was appointed to Bronx Family Court by former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in 1998. Robert Tembeckjian, the commission’s administrator and counsel, sought to set a tight framework for the appeal of the recusal order and subsequent proceedings yesterday, expressing concern that the commission would lose jurisdiction over Judge Shelton if it does not issue a ruling before she leaves office. Judge Shelton’s main attack on the commission’s case was that it relied heavily upon Mr. Quirk, who heads the union of court officers assigned to Civil, Criminal and Family Courts in New York City. Mr. Quirk “dislikes Judge Shelton for pointing out security lapses” and “for refusing to accede to his boast that he controls its courtrooms,” Judge Shelton stated in her answer. The answer further charged that Mr. Quirk in a belligerent telephone call to the judge had “threatened to end Judge Shelton’s career as a jurist, a threat – now with the Commission’s staff’s help – he is trying to make good.” Mr. Tembeckjian responded that the commission does not act as anyone’s agent but independently exercises its constitutional responsibilities. Mr. Quirk denied having any animus toward Judge Shelton, saying he had never met her or spoken to her. He said he had written a letter of complaint to the commission after he had been unsuccessful in resolving with court administrators problems his officers had with the judge. Though Mr. Quirk had related in his complaint eight instances in which Judge Shelton had allegedly mistreated court officers, the commission’s complaint only incorporated one of the episodes. The commission also claims that Judge Shelton had defied an order of her supervising judge, Clark V. Richardson ( See Profile), directing her to continue hearing intake cases on Feb. 1, 2006, after one of her court officers had been assigned to another courtroom. The complaint charged that Judge Shelton, in “words or substance,” told Judge Richardson that he “could deal with intake” and she was “going home.” Judge Shelton in her answer denied Judge Richardson had ordered her to remain on the bench but acknowledged being “angry” at Mr. Quirk, whom she believed was responsible for removing a court officer who had long been assigned to her courtroom. She stated she did not believe it would be “prudent” to remain on the bench and instead spent the remainder of the day, after learning of the reassignment at about 11 a.m., working in her robing room. Clashes with Judges Charged The commission also accused Judge Shelton of mistreating two other Bronx Family Court judges. One instance involved a sharply disputed tussle with Judge Monica Drinane ( See Profile) over which of the two judges could require an attorney to be in their courtroom. Judge Shelton also quoted from an e-mail that Judge Drinane had sent her apologizing for the incident. According to the commission’s complaint, when Judge Drinane entered Judge Shelton’s courtroom to discuss the issue, Judge Shelton told her to “step out of my courtroom, please,” and directed a court officer “to shut the door on Judge Drinane.” When Judge Drinane again asked to speak to Judge Shelton, the complaint stated, Judge Shelton responded, “Monica, you are literally over the top.” In her answer, Judge Shelton described Judge Drinane as approaching her “confrontationally, in robes with arms crossed over her chest.” Judge Drinane’s comment, “I want to speak to you,” the answer further asserted, was a “polite rendition” of what was actually said because “the court reporter has frankly admitted to Judge Shelton that he was hesitant even to record the embarrassing scene created by Judge Drinane.” Further, according to the answer, Judge Drinane subsequently sent Judge Shelton an e-mail in which she stated, “I do apologize . . . you are right. I should not have walked into your courtroom.” The other incident involved a dispute with Judge Alma Cordova ( See Profile) over who was responsible for a case, with each judge claiming the other was responsible. The commission charged that Judge Shelton had gone into Judge Cordova’s courtroom while she was presiding over a case, “slammed the case file on a table and left.” Judge Shelton’s answer painted a scenario that was the precise inverse. After Judge Shelton twice attempted to send the file to Judge Cordova’s courtroom, the answer related, Judge Cordova, together with her court officer appeared unannounced in Judge Shelton’s robing room, having entered through a locked door that Judge Cordova’s court officer had unlocked. Judge Cordova proceeded to talk to her in angry tones and “slammed the file” on Judge Shelton’s desk. A short while later, in Judge Shelton’s recounting of the episode, while not wearing her robes, she “unobtrusively” placed the file on a table in Judge Cordova’s courtroom. Judge Shelton is the ninth judge to waive confidentiality once the commission has filed charges since the agency was created in 1978. - Daniel Wise can be reached at [email protected].

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