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A part-time village justice in New York faces the prospect of losing his job for allegedly using the B-word and C-word to describe women in his communications with legal clients.
The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct is recommending removal of Judge Paul Senzer for alleged use of “racist, sexist, profane and otherwise degrading language,” according to an Oct. 17 press release and the commission’s Oct. 9 determination. Law360, Newsday and the Associated Press have coverage.
Senzer is a part-time justice in Northport Village Court in Suffolk County.
According to the commission, Senzer sent nine offensive emails between October 2014 and February 2015 when representing two clients seeking the right to visit their grandchild.
In the emails, Senzer allegedly:
• Referred to the clients’ daughter several times as a “bitch” and once as an “asshole.”
• Stated that their daughter’s lawyer is “a c— on wheels, (sorry for the profanity … and don’t quote me), so be prepared.” In another email, he referred to the lawyer as “eyelashes.”
• Cautioned the couple not to contact the child’s school, stating, “You should know by now that people who work in schools are assholes.”
• Wrote in an email subject line, “The two scumbags were served.” The reference was to the clients’ daughter and her ex-husband.
• Wrote, “You may have noticed that the ‘judge’ is an asshole.” (The “judge” reference was to the court’s attorney referee, according to the commission press release.)
A referee had found that Senzer showed “sincere contriteness,” expressing “profound and deep regret” for the words he used. Senzer testified he used the words in a misguided effort to empathize with clients who were long-time acquaintances, and the female client had used similar language to describe her daughter.
Senzer had argued that his language was private and not sanctionable. The commission disagreed, finding that Senzer was communicating with the clients as an officer of the court.
“At a minimum, gender-based slurs, which denigrate a woman’s worth and abilities and convey an appearance of gender bias, should have no place in a judge’s vocabulary,” the commission determination said.
Commission administrator Robert Tembeckjian issued a statement about the case. “It is simply unacceptable for a judge to demean women with vile and otherwise abhorrent language,” he said in the press release. “Doing so reveals prejudice and undermines public confidence in the administration of justice. It should be clear that a person who cavalierly uses gender-biased slurs does not belong on the bench.”
Senzer has 30 days to either accept the determination or request review by the New York Court of Appeals. His lawyer, David Besso, told Newsday the commission overreached, and he would ask the court to reject the removal recommendation.
“We were very surprised by the decision. I consider this to be one of the biggest miscarriages of justice with regards to the commission’s findings,” Besso told Newsday. “Judge Senzer has an unblemished record on the bench. The allegations have nothing to do with his judicial duties. The statements were made as a private attorney in the heat of litigation. He has expressed considerable remorse.”
Senzer earns $10,000 annually as a part-time judge, a position he has held since 1994. He had received a letter of caution in 2002 for making sarcastic remarks to the defendant and the defendant’s mother while presiding over a marijuana case, according to the commission press release.