On Tuesday, May 30, 2023, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct determined that Elizabethtown Town Court (Essex County) Judge Richard F. Olcott, should be censured for interfering with the resolution of a traffic ticket issued to his son.

According to the Commission’s news release, Judge Olcott’s adolescent son received an infraction for driving an unregistered vehicle. The judge’s son registered the car two days after getting the ticket. When the judge’s regularly scheduled court date came around a week later, the judge asked an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) in regards to settling the ticket. Throughout Judge Olcott’s talking with the ADA, Olcott did not disclose that his son owned the ticket. The ADA consented to discharge as the judge informed him that the vehicle was now properly registered, and he paid the ticket.

Adding to his misconduct, Judge Olcott neglected his duty to mechanically record any vehicle and traffic proceedings, despite being obligated to do so.

On January 9, 2023, Judge Olcott received a Formal Written Complaint that included two charges. He responded by filing an Answer on February 2, 2023. Subsequently, on April 10, 2023, the Commission’s Administrator and Judge Olcott reached an agreement by entering into an Agreed Statement of Facts. This statement acknowledged the facts of the case and agreed upon the appropriate sanction. As part of this agreement, both parties waived the need for additional submissions and oral arguments. The Commission accepted the Agreed Statement on April 20, 2023.

In the process of censuring Judge Olcott, the Commission took into account his belief that the resolution of the ticket was a routine administrative matter, given that his son promptly registered the vehicle, aligning with how similar cases are typically handled. However, Judge Olcott now acknowledges that he should not have been involved in his son’s ticket under any circumstances.

Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian stated that in such situations that involve public confidence in the integrity of the courts, a judge is required to step aside in any case where a close relative is charged.

Tembeckjian added:

“In such situations, the judge is disqualified and must play no part, even if the charge is a relatively minor traffic violation, the infraction is cured, and the disposition is similar to what anyone else would have received in similar circumstances.”

Upon completing its determination, the Commission forwarded the decision to the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals as mandated by Judiciary Law Section 44, subdivision 7. On May 26, 2023, the Commission received notification that Judge Olcott had received the determination, which means the matter is now public.

Judge Olcott has two options: either accept the Commission’s determination or, within 30 days of receiving it, submit a written request to the Chief Judge for a review of the determination by the Court of Appeals. If Judge Olcott chooses not to request a review, the Commission will proceed with the censure in line with the determination.

Should the Court of Appeals review the Commission’s determination, they have the authority to accept the prescribed sanction, impose a different sanction such as admonition, censure, or removal, or opt for no sanction at all.

Judge Olcott assumed office in 2020 and is currently serving as a Justice of the Elizabethtown Town Court. His current term is set to conclude on December 31, 2023.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.