ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - New York's top court will allow a misconduct probe to use sealed criminal records in its investigation of a questionable campaign contribution indirectly made by a Brooklyn attorney to a Manhattan judge, although they were cleared of any criminal charges four years ago.
On Tuesday, the New York Court of Appeals ruled the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct can use the sealed criminal records of attorney Seth Rubenstein in its ongoing judicial misconduct investigation.
On appeal, Rubenstein had sought to vacate an order releasing his sealed records from a criminal proceeding.
"In this appeal, we conclude that the (commission) is authorized, pursuant to the Judiciary Law and its constitutional mandate to investigate judicial misconduct, to request and receive records sealed under Criminal Procedure Law ... for use in its investigations," the court's opinion states.
"We further hold that the Appellate Division erred by dismissing as moot appellant's challenge to the Commission's authority. We therefore reverse the Appellate Division order dismissing the appeal as moot, and deny appellant's application to vacate the exparte order releasing his sealed records."
Rubenstein and Judge Nora Anderson, identified as Judge Doe in the opinion, were criminally prosecuted on charges of violations of the campaign finance law in relation to contributions he made to the judge's campaign and advice he allegedly provided regarding those contributions.
Rubenstein, Anderson's former boss, was accused of stuffing $250,000 into Anderson's personal bank account, which she then snuck into her 2008 primary campaign coffers, according to a New York Post article.
Eight of the 10 criminal charges brought against Rubenstein and Anderson were dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, and in April 2010, a jury acquitted them of the remaining charges. Following the termination of the proceedings, their criminal records were sealed, court records show.
However, a few weeks later, the commission initiated an investigation, looking into Anderson for possible misconduct related to her campaign and moved for an order for a review of the sealed records, court records show.
The investigation led to the commission's July 2011 formal written complaint against Anderson, charging misconduct arising from her judicial election campaign and censure in October 2012.
Anderson's current judicial term ends in 2022.
Reach David Yates at firstname.lastname@example.org