Posted on: December 6, 2023, 02:48h.
Last updated on: December 6, 2023, 02:48h.
A former justice for the small town of Moravia, in Cayuga County, N.Y., has been charged with fourth-degree grand larceny after she was allegedly found dipping her fingers into court coffers.
Former Justice June Shepardson was suspended by the town court in July amid an investigation by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct into a missing $6K. She resigned from the position she had held since 2001 on September 1, 2023.
In New York State, town and village courts are local courts that typically handle traffic tickets, criminal matters, small claims, and local code violations, such as zoning.
“On August 2, 2023, based upon information obtained from a representative of the Unified Court System, the Commission commenced an investigation into an allegation that Judge Shepardson had converted more than $6,000 in court funds from the Town and Village of Moravia.”
Few details are available about the case, although Shepardson’s lawyer, J. Justin Woods, said in October that his client had a gambling problem and was seeking help.
Unfortunately, near the end of her service, Justice Shepardson developed a gambling addiction for which she is now in recovery,” Woods said. “She appreciated the opportunity to serve her community on the bench with fairness.”
He added that his client looked forward to “returning to private life” and continuing her recovery, while “helping [to] bring awareness and treatment resources about gambling addiction to those isolated in rural areas.”
There are a cluster of casinos around Moravia, in the state’s Finger Lakes region, including the Cayuga Nation’s Lakeside Entertainment I and II and the del Lago Resort & Casino. Woods said his client was currently in the process of excluding herself from all the casinos in New York State.
Public Confidence ‘Undermined’
Fourth-degree grand larceny is a Category E felony in New York and does not come with a mandatory minimum prison term. However, those convicted could face a maximum four years.
“Town and village court justices are responsible for safeguarding, reporting and promptly remitting all official monies collected by their courts from fines, fees and other sources,” said Robert Tembeckjian of the state Judicial Conduct Commission.
He added that “failure to do so undermines public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.”
Instances of judges succumbing to gambling addiction and crime are rare but not unheard of. The most high-profile case was that of US District Judge Thomas Porteous. He was impeached and removed from office by Congress after being found guilty of corruption in 2010.
Porteous admitted to struggling with gambling and drinking problems, which led to him accepting thousands of dollars from lawyers whose cases he was hearing. He was only the eighth federal judge to be removed from office by impeachment in US history.
He died in 2021, age 74.