A controversial New York City Housing Court judge—who an advisory council recommended for removal from the bench amidst a raft of complaints against her—wants to be reappointed to her seat.
The complaints, which were described in a confidential letter that was leaked to the New York Post, led to the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Housing Part for the ouster of Judge Susan Avery.
Avery, a 2012 appointee to the bench on the city’s Housing Court who presided over a housing part in Brooklyn and now sits in Manhattan, was criticized for lengthy delays in proceedings before her and conflicts of interest regarding her family’s real estate holdings.
Also among the concerns about Avery’s conduct, according to a copy of a confidential letter from the advisory council that was read to the Post, included a 2013 incident in which she chided a lawyer with cerebral palsy for having bad handwriting.
Barry Kamins, a partner at Aidala Bertuna & Kamins and a retired state Supreme Court justice who is representing Avery in the matter, said Avery is applying for reappointment to her seat because her five-year term ended, but declined to comment further.
Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks is set to make the final decision of whether or not Avery will be reappointed to the bench, Kamins said.
According to the Post’s report, as well as Housing Court practitioners with knowledge of Avery’s courtroom conduct who declined to be named, there have been complaints about excessive delays in cases before Avery in which tenants have been left without heat or hot water.
The 14-member advisory council is made up of representatives from the real estate industry, civic groups and bar associations. Members who were reached by the Law Journal declined to comment.
The leak of a confidential letter to the Post concerning a Housing Court judge has raised the ire of the Housing Court Judges Association.
In a letter to Marks, Housing Court Judge Timmie Erin Elsner, president of the association, said the Post article raised “serious issues” regarding the integrity of the advisory council and requesting that the Office of Court Administration review the procedures in place for keeping the advisory council’s findings confidential, but did not name Avery specifically.
“The information in the document was not intended for dissemination to the public,” Elsner wrote. “Its circulation, prior to a final determination regarding her future as a housing judge, is damaging on many levels.”
OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen said that court officials intend to address concerns about the leak in the letter that will be sent to the advisory council in the coming days.
“Hopefully there will be no recurrence,” Chalfen said.
Gail Prudenti, who served as chief administrative judge for the court system at the time of Avery’s appointment and who is now dean of the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, said she does not recall appointing Avery specifically or any issues arising from the appointment.
In 2016, Avery ran for a seat on the bench in Manhattan Civil Court, but lost to Sabrina Kraus in the Democratic primary, who earned 55 percent of the vote and ran unopposed in the general election.
During the run-up to the 2016 primary elections for Civil Court, the New York City Bar Association gave Avery a “not approved” rating, however the city bar does not publicly issue its reasoning behind ratings for political candidates.