On Thursday, March 23, 2023, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts suspended judge Paul M. Sushchyk, Associate Justice for the Worcester County Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts, for his misconduct that involved nonconsensual touching of a field coordinator’s buttock without her consent.  The case is entitled “In the Matter of Paul M. Sushchyk,” with case no. SJC-13077.

The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 3:09, Canon 1, 1.2; Rule 3:09, Canon 2, 2.16(a) which states:

 A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

 A judge shall cooperate and be candid and honest with judicial and lawyer disciplinary authorities as it instills confidence in judges’ commitment to the integrity of the judicial system and the protection of the public.

In a brief for the appellant, dated March 22, 2021, it was alleged that the case against the respondent began when a field coordinator for the Administrative Office of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court reported that the respondent had inappropriately touched her buttock without her consent, while both were attending a work-related conference.

The filing states:

“While Ms. Deines was seated at Bayzo’s Pub with those co-workers on April 25, 2019, Judge Sushchyk entered Bayzo’s Pub and walked to the table at which Ms. Deines was seated. (R.A. II/135-137). During Judge Sushchyk’s approach to the table, he passed directly behind Ms. Deines. (R.A. II/145). While passing behind Ms. Deines, Judge Sushchyk slid his hand under Ms. Deines’ left buttock intentionally, without justification or excuse, and without invitation or consent from Ms. Deines, and “grabbed” Ms. Deines’ buttock. Id. Judge Sushchyk was the only person behind Ms. Deines at the time that Ms. Deines felt her buttock being grabbed.”

It was stated that Judge Josephson, the judge that oversees the investigation, cited his direct observations of the complainant’s testimony during the formal hearing. He assured the consistency of the complainant’s reporting, and the credible steps that the latter took before making a report. He said, “Ms. Deines gave a cogent, credible, consistent account of what occurred. Based on her testimony and my observations of her over the hours she testified, including during rigorous cross-examination, I believe her.”

Upon investigation, the hearing report was issued and stated that there is clear and convincing evidence to prove the said allegations against the respondent.

The filing continues:

“In the Hearing Officer’s Report, Judge Josephson ruled that the definition of “clear and convincing” evidence established by Massachusetts precedent was applicable to her findings and that evidence to corroborate Ms. Deines’ testimony was not necessary. (R.A. II/855-856). However, Judge Josephson also made findings that, by either the established Massachusetts standard of evidence or the standard proposed by Mr. Angelini, “the allegation that Judge Sushchyk engaged in an intentional, nonconsensual touching of Ms. Deines as detailed in the complaint against him has been proved by clear and convincing evidence.” (R.A. II/858).”

In its report and recommendation, the Commission recommended that the court sanction the respondent by publicly censuring him, ordering him to pay the costs incurred by the commission, and suspending him without pay from his judicial office.

In response, through his brief filed on April 15, 2021, the respondent argued that the charge rests entirely on speculation and not on facts. According to the judge, this can be proven by the complainant’s unsupported belief that “he was the only one behind me at the time,” acknowledging that she doesn’t know whether he was really behind her at the time or who else was behind her at the time. The respondent added, that whether anyone had inappropriate contact with the complainant on that evening is open to question, but what is beyond question is that he did not do so.

The filing further states:

“This is not a case in which there is simply the absence of any persuasive evidence of culpability. It is a case in which there is no evidence whatsoever of culpability and in which direct eyewitness testimony by two members of the bar who were friends with Ms. Deines and who were called to testify by the Commission directly contradicts any involvement by Judge Sushchyk. It is impossible to reconcile what Ms. Deines’ has come to believe with what those witnesses saw, and it is impossible to reconcile the record with the Commission’s obligation to present clear and convincing evidence in support of its Charge.”

The filing additionally notes:

“By Attorneys Welsh’s and Patsos’ direct observations Judge Sushchyk did not stop behind Ms. Deines for 15 seconds or 10 seconds or 5 seconds or even for 1 second and without stopping he obviously could not have done what Ms. Deines has claimed he did. If there is any clear and convincing evidence in this matter it is that if anyone pinched or grabbed Ms. Deines, that person was not Judge Sushchyk. Facts are hard, as the saying goes, and the hard facts here prove that if this incident occurred, it did not occur at the hands of Judge Sushchyk. The Hearing Officer’s conclusion to the contrary is remarkable and inexplicable. Referring to Ms. Deines, the Hearing Officer has stated that “I believe her.” (R.A. 11/856) But what is there to believe? There are no facts implicating Judge Sushchyk, much less any fact which could be believed.”

The court in its decision favored the complainant. It argued that although it is true that there was no direct evidence that the respondent touched the complainant, there was sufficient circumstantial evidence from which a fact finder could determine that there was a high probability the judge, and not someone else, did so. Moreover, the court emphasized that there is also the fact that, ten days after first being made aware of the allegations, the respondent created and submitted a fictional version of events wherein he admitted to touching the complainant on the evening in question but tried to pass it off as unintentional.

In summary, the court agreed with the hearing officer and the Commission that the evidence was sufficient to establish that the respondent engaged in an intentional, nonconsensual, and unwelcome touching of the complainant and that he knowingly provided a false version of events after being confronted with the complainant’s allegations.

According to the court, the respondent has committed serious acts of misconduct that implicate fundamental principles of integrity and respect for the judicial office. It added that because of the great power and responsibility that judges have in passing judgment on their fellow citizens, such standards are desirable and necessary. Thus, there should be strict adherence to them. Failure on the part of even a few judges to comply with these standards serves to degrade and demean the entire judiciary and to erode public confidence in the judicial process. In light of the foregoing reasons, the court decided to suspend the respondent.

The Disposition states:

“Conclusion. The respondent is suspended without pay for a reasonable time to permit the executive and legislative branches to consider if they wish, whether he should retain his judicial office. [10] See Matter of Markey, 427 Mass. 797, 804-805 (1998) (discussing our authority to suspend judge without pay). If requested, the commission shall be permitted to share with the executive and legislative branches any non-impounded material that has been provided to this court in connection with the present matter. A copy of this decision shall be delivered to the Governor and the Legislature.”

Judge Sushchyk attended the Western New England Law School, graduating in 1981.

Judge Sushchyk’s courtroom is located at 24 New Chardon St, Boston, MA 02114, and can be reached at +1 617-788-8300. His info can be found on trellislaw.com

A copy of the original filing can be found here.