On Monday, June 17, 2024, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct announced that Joseph Nowakowski resigned as a Town Justice from the Bethany Town Court in Genesee County, New York while under investigation for sexual harassment.

According to a press release from the Commission, Judge Nowakowski was alleged to have sexually harassed a court clerk by sending her inappropriate text messages unrelated to court business. When the clerk told him to stop, the judge allegedly retaliated by trying to have her employment terminated.

The Commission notified Judge Nowakowski in February 2024 that it was investigating a complaint regarding this matter. Rather than face potential disciplinary charges, on June 1st Nowakowski agreed to resign from his position effective immediately. He also signed a stipulation vowing to never seek or accept any judicial office in the future.

In the stipulation, Judge Nowakowski waived the usual confidentiality of Commission proceedings so that the agreement and the Commission’s order accepting it would be made public. The Commission Administrator, Robert Tembeckjian, stated that sexual harassment has no place in the courts, especially by members of the judiciary who must uphold the highest standards of conduct.

Nowakowski, who was first elected to the Bethany Town Court in 2022, was represented in the matter by private attorney Daniel Killelea. The Commission representatives handling the case were Deputy Administrator John Postel, Senior Attorney David Duguay, and Senior Investigator Betsy Sampson.

As a non-attorney judge serving the town court, Nowakowski’s term was set to expire on December 31, 2025. However, with his resignation and pledge to not return to any judicial office, his time on the bench came to an early end due to the sexual harassment allegations.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.