A Clash In Judicial Roles
Here, Family Court initiated the underlying contempt proceeding, applied for the subpoenas duces tecum, ruled upon petitioner’s respective motions to quash and dismiss, questioned the only witness to testify at the hearing, ruled upon counsel’s objections thereto, acted as the trier of fact at the contempt hearing and sentenced petitioner to serve 72 hours in the local jail. In our view, Family Court’s decision to serve as complainant, prosecutor, trial judge and sentencing court brought about a clear “clash in judicial roles” (People v. Alomar, supra, at 246) and, as such, recusal was warranted. At the very least, Family Court’s actions created the appearance of impropriety and, under the circumstances of this case, we deem it to be an abuse of discretion for Family Court to fail to recuse itself after issuing the order to show cause. Stampfler v. Snow 735 N.Y.S.2d 255 (N.Y. App. Div. 2002)
Addressing defendant’s contention that Judge Breslin should have recused himself from deciding defendant’s subsequent CPL article 440 motion because he was a witness in the underlying trial, we find the argument unpersuasive. The record does not support a finding that any of the express statutory disqualifications set forth in Judiciary Law § 14 are applicable. “Absent a legal disqualification under Judiciary Law § 14, * * * a trial judge is the sole arbiter of recusal and his or her decision in that regard will not be overturned absent an abuse of discretion” (Matter of Stampfler v. Snow, 290 A.D.2d 595, 596 [citation omitted]; see People v. Moreno, 70 N.Y.2d 403, 405-406). Furthermore, “[r]ecusal, as a matter of due process, is required only where there exists a direct, personal, substantial or pecuniary interest in reaching a particular conclusion, or where a clash in judicial roles is seen to exist” (People v. Alomar, 93 N.Y.2d 239, 246 [citation omitted]; see Matter of Stampfler v. Snow,supra at 596).
No such interest on the part of Judge Breslin exists herein. Nor do we find that his judicial role “conflicted impermissibly with the notion of fundamental fairness” (People v. Alomar, supra at 246; compare Matter of Stampfler v. Snow, supra at 596 [where it was held that “Family Court’s decision to serve as complainant, prosecutor, trial judge and sentencing court brought about a clear `clash in judicial roles'”]). Therefore, recusal as a matter of due process was not required. While it may be argued that Judge Breslin should have recused himself to avoid any appearance of partiality (see 22 NYCRR 100.3 [E]  [b] [iii]), such an error, if indeed there was one, does not warrant reversal and a new trial under the circumstances of this case (see People v. Rieman, 144 A.D.2d 110). People v. Saunders 753 N.Y.S.2d 620 (N.Y. App. Div. 2003) People v. Saunders 753 N.Y.S.2d 620 (N.Y. App. Div. 2003)
Accordingly, the Stampfler Court’s holding that the Family Court’s recusal was required to avoid a clash of judicial roles has no bearing in this case. See, e.g., People v. Alomar, 93 NY2d at 246-47 (no clash of judicial roles where criminal trial judges later presided over and participated in the trials’ reconstruction hearings); People v. Saunders, 301 AD2d 869, 871 (3rd Dep’t), lv. denied 100 NY2d 542 (2003) (no clash of judicial roles requiring recusal where judge, who had testified against defendant in the People’s criminal trial, presided over defendant’s subsequent motions to vacate his conviction and sentence under NY C.P.L §§ 440.10, 440.20); People v. Smith, 272 AD2d 679, 681-82 (3rd Dep’t), lv. denied 95 NY2d 938 (2000) (no clash in judicial roles where criminal trial court previously presided over Family Court proceedings involving the same incident). To the contrary, under all the circumstances, the Court’s procedures for conducting an inquiry of sufficient depth to satisfy itself whether defendant failed to comply with the conditions of his sentence are both reasonable and appropriate. See People v. Green, 45 AD3d at 780-81; People v. Jenkins, 29 AD3d at 1178; People v. Rivera, 32 AD3d at 446. Therefore, there is no “clash in judicial roles” that requires the Court’s recusal in this matter. People v. Williams 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 50237 (N.Y. City Ct. 2019)
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