An upstate town justice who was under investigation for allegedly permitting unsworn testimony, making statements indicating that she prejudged a defendant as guilty before a trial began and other infractions has resigned.
According to papers filed by the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the commission notified Beekmantown Town Justice Susan Castine in March 2017 that it had received a complaint that she permitted unsworn testimony, failed to advise a defendant of the right to apply for assigned counsel and made on-the-record statements indicating that she would find a defendant guilty before a trial had been commenced.
The commission again contacted the judge in November 2017 that it had received a separate complaint that Castine mishandled matters involving minor defendants who did not have counsel and that she required a defendant in a summary proceeding to present her defense before the presentation of the plaintiff’s case.
The second complaint also alleged that Castine engaged in ex parte communications with parties and elicited incriminating statements from them, reduced and dismissed charges without notifying or obtaining consent from the prosecution, failed to advise defendants of their right to counsel and failed to audio record court proceedings.
Castine, who has been on the bench since 2006, is not an attorney. Her annual salary was $16,174, according to the commission’s filings.
Castine told the Press-Republican, a newspaper based in Plattsburgh, New York, on Thursday that “none of it is true” and that she resigned with one year left in her term because she did not want not to “go through the turmoil of it.”
Beekmantown is in Clinton County, located on New York’s northern tip on the Canadian border.
Castine signed a stipulation with the commission on Jan. 5 and the commission made it public on Thursday. Her resignation was effective Dec. 31.
Cathleen Cenci, deputy administrator of the commission’s Albany office; and Eteena Tadjiogueu, a staff attorney in the commission’s Albany office, appeared for the commission.
Frank Zappala, a Plattsburgh-based attorney, represented Castine in the matter. He did not respond to a request for comment.