Legal Ethics

Panel seeks ouster of judge who didn't reveal conflicts; she calls probate-court cases 'ministerial'

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A New York judge who has served on the state’s probate court for more than a decade should be removed because she failed to reveal conflicts and recuse herself on multiple occasions, a disciplinary panel has recommended.

Previously censured in 2007 for her testimony before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in support of a now-disbarred former state supreme court judge, the respondent, Albany County Surrogate’s Court Judge Cathryn M. Doyle, 60, didn’t learn from this experience that she needed to be more careful about the appearance of impropriety, says the commission’s administrator in a written statement provided to the Albany Times Union.

“From 2007 to 2011, Judge Doyle failed to disqualify herself from, and took judicial action in, nine matters involving attorneys with whom she had close professional and personal relationships,” said the commission in a written opinion filed with the state Court of Appeals.

Doyle called the matters, which involved functions such as admitting wills to probate and determining intended trust beneficiaries of a will, “ministerial” and said there was hence no conflict of interest, the commission said. The conflicts arose because the individuals involved were friends (one was the disbarred former judge for whom she testified), a manager of her judicial election campaign and her personal lawyer.

Two dissenting members of the commission said Doyle should be censured rather than removed from the bench.

Doyle and her counsel could not be reached by the newspaper for comment. She has 30 days to appeal the recommendation.

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