Legal Ethics

MA Judge Accused of Moonlighting

A state commission has filed misconduct charges against a Massachusetts judge, accusing him of moonlighting in violation of judicial rules of conduct.

Judge Michael Livingstone allegedly both operated a real estate business and accepted fees from a lawyer who took over his practice, while simultaneously serving on the Plymouth County bench as a probate and family court jurist, reports the Associated Press. The Commission on Judicial Conduct has also accused Livingstone of misrepresenting his situation in a sworn statement, and sending a letter illegally threatening to cut off utility service to a tenant who was behind on the rent.

However, Michael Mone, an attorney representing the jurist, says these issues have been overblown and emphasizes that the judge did not act dishonestly.

“Judge Livingstone is a very hardworking, conscientious probate judge who is widely respected. None of these charges have anything to do with what he did on the bench,” Mone points out.

And it was true, as Livingstone said in a sworn statement in 2002, that a partner was running his real estate business when he took the bench, Mone states. Only after the partner quit in 2004 did the judge assume some managerial duties.

Meanwhile, money Livingstone received from the lawyer who took over his New Bedford practice was paid under a buyout agreement, not as attorney fees, according to Mone. (The commission contends the judge received a percentage share of the fees his successor earned from Livingstone’s former clients.)

As far as the tenant letter was concerned, Livingstone’s wording may have been inappropriate, the lawyer states, but the letter was not intended to threaten the tenant with loss of utility service.

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