gavel and law books

ALBANY- A Justice of the Steuben Town Court in Oneida County will resign by the end of the year following an investigation by the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct.

In August, Judge Roger C. Maclaughlin, who is not an attorney,  was informed that the commission was investigating a complaint that he dismissed a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated after conducting an ex parte investigation of the matter. Maclaughlin, who has been a justice in Steuben Town Court since 1995, appeared to have engaged in five additional ex parte communications, according to the commission.

Maclaughlin will resign from office effective Dec. 31 and has agreed to never seek or accept judicial office in the future. His term was slated to expire on Dec. 31, 2019.

Maclaughlin sent his letter of resignation to the supervisor of the town of Steuben on Sept. 12. In the letter, Maclaughlin said he wished “nothing but the best of luck” to his successor.

Efforts to reach Maclaughlin, who represented himself in the matter against the commission, were not successful.

In a statement, Robert Tembeckjian, the commission administrator, said that a judge must ensure ” that all parties in a proceeding have a fair opportunity to be heard and to hear and challenge the evidence presented by the other side.” The commission’s decision was reached Oct. 30.

“That fundamental obligation of evenhandedness is defeated when a judge engages in private substantive conversation with one side and then rules,” Tembeckjian added.

This wasn’t the first time Maclaughlin had been reprimanded by the commission. In 2001, he was censured for,  among other things, soliciting and relying upon ex parte information related to a local property owner whose property was the subject of local code violations. Maclaughlin committed the property owner to jail for failing to make certain repairs despite the fact that the 15-day notice the defendant had to fix the violations hadn’t yet expired. Maclaughlin also sent a threatening letter on judicial stationery about alleged code violations to another local property owner, despite there being no charges pending against the individual.