Albany City Court judge resigning, forced to never seek office again

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct says Albany City Court Judge Thomas K. Keefe has resigned from office.

According to the announcement he will stop working on September 30, 2016 and has agreed never to seek or accept judicial office at any time in the future.

Judge Keefe entered into the stipulation after a referee sustained 10 of 13 misconduct charges against him and after being apprised that the Commission’s Administrator would recommend his removal from office.

Judge Keefe was served with a formal written complaint containing 13 charges alleging that he made impatient, discourteous and undignified remarks to and about the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, conveyed an appearance of bias against the DA’s office, made undignified remarks to a defendant, engaged in ex-parte meetings and conversations with a defendant, defendant’s family members or counsel and directed a defendant not to contact her attorney in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights and remanded the defendant to jail for one week for calling her attorney.

In his resignation letter to the Albany mayor, Keefe says it follows his transfer from criminal to civil court following complaints by the district attorney’s office to the commission.

He says he misses the work he did there ensuring defendants were represented at arraignments by lawyers and helping get their lives back on track with referrals to treatment.

“He has acknowledged he said things that were inappropriate,” his attorney, Mark Mishler, said. “It is our position that most of the charges were not valid.”

Mishler said Keefe has apologized for using inappropriate language. In the letter to Mayor Sheehan, Keefe said “I have acknowledged misconduct in four of the charges, including my exceedingly poor handling of a matter involving a veteran, which I consider the worst thing I have done in my 14 years as a judge.”

In one complaint against him, Keefe is quoted as saying to the Albany County DA’s office: “I’m going to be here for 10 years, and if you think that I’ve caused problems up to this moment, you haven’t seen anything, yet.”

Keefe agreed to the resignation rather than fight the allegations of misconduct in court. He also agreed to never seek a position as a judge in New York State again.

During the misconduct investigation, Keefe was no longer allowed to reside in Albany City Criminal Court.

“He decided it just made sense if he’s not going to be able to do that work, it made sense to sort of take the opportunity now and retire and resign,” Mishler said.

Local attorney Paul DerOhannesian reacted to the decision on Monday.

“Judge Keefe was a very hard working conscientious judge and certainly most of us who appeared in front of him found him to be very dedicated and interested in the work that he did,” he said. “And like any job, any profession, sometimes people go outside the lines.”

On Monday, Albany County District Attorney David Soares said, “My office will be reviewing all pertinent cases to determine if any corrective actions need to be taken. We invite others who may have been affected to contact us through their counsel.”

Judge Keefe had served as a judge of the Albany City Court since 2003.

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