Commission: Palmyra judge threatened to refuse arraignments if police didn’t unlock his car

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A Palmyra judge has been censured by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct after officials say he used his position as a judge to get police officers to unlock his car.

The commission says Judge William Abbott invoked his office when asking for police help getting his vehicle unlocked. The commission adds he even threatened to refuse to oversee future arraignments if they didn’t help.

In its determination, the commission says the censure stems from an incident in November 2017 when the judge called 911 from Newark-Wayne Community Hospital after locking his keys in his car.

The dispatcher told Judge Abbott that the department only unlocked vehicles during emergencies. Instead, the dispatcher offered to call a garage to help out. At that point, according to the commission, Judge Abbott told the dispatcher that the police had done it before. He then added, “I am Judge Abbott of Palmyra and I just won’t do any arraignments for you anymore.”

Feeling intimidated, the commission says the dispatcher contacted a Newark police sergeant who went to help. After about 20 minutes, with help from a second officer, police were able to open the vehicle.

Judge Abbott has accepted the punishment, which is a formal statement condemning his actions.

This is the second censure for Judge Abbott who has served in the Palmyra town and village courts since 1979. His current term expires at the end of the year.

Judge Abbott faced another censure in 1989 for a similar situation where the commission says he used his status as a judge to do a favor for a friend.

“Invoking one’s judicial title for a personal favor, and threatening not to perform a judicial duty when rebuffed, are plainly improper,” said Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian. “Judge Abbott should have known better, having been disciplined previously for invoking his judicial office in a private matter. He accepts responsibility, appears to appreciate the impropriety of his action and is expected not to repeat it in the future.”

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