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Repeat offender merited judge’s tough approach

As a trial lawyer and someone who had the privilege of serving with Judge James A. McLeod on the New York State Commission on Diversity, I can state unequivocally that the judge is not a great African-American judge, but a great judge who happens to be African-American. It is for this reason that I am writing in response to his being admonished by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct for his frank exchange with a young, street-tough multiple offender.

Although admonishment is a milder rebuke from the commission and the only blemish on an otherwise sterling record as a City Court judge, it begs to be put in perspective. Five years ago, McLeod created a pilot court for repeat youthful offenders, ages 16 to 19, to address the issue of “tough love.” The young tough in question was a foul-mouthed defendant who used virulent racist and profanity-laced language 11 times with the judge and, finally, had to be physically removed from the courtroom.

Such behavior, when coupled with being a repeat offender at 17, calls for a very tough approach, including verbiage that reflects the situation at hand. This is what McLeod, a judge in a major urban center replete with crime, used. Some members of the commission apparently are from more pastoral areas of the state. I, for one, prefer a judge who is not a judicial eunuch in a court for repeat youthful offenders.

Ross T. Runfola

Buffalo