A judicial commission has ruled to censure a Southampton town judge after finding he committed “acts of misconduct,” including riding in a police car with a drunken driving suspect he had just arraigned, officials with the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct said Wednesday.
Judge Edward Burke, Sr. has been formally censured for four separate acts of misconduct, officials said. Burke, who has served as a town judge since 2008, is accused of riding in a police car with a defendant he had just arraigned, recommending that man hire an attorney he was doing business with, using his judicial title to promote his law firm and making improper political contributions, the commission said in a news release. His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
The commission’s administrator, Robert Temberckjian, recommended Burke be yanked from his post, but the nine-judge panel that oversees complaints of misconduct by judges instead voted to issue a written censure. “I recommended removal, but the Commission voted to censure the judge,” Tembeckjian said. “I prosecute the case and recommend a result, but the Commission makes the decision.” Burke can now appeal the decision to the state’s Court of Appeals.
The commission also found that between 2008 and 2011, Burke imposed fines in more than 200 traffic cases that exceeded the maximum amount authorized by law even though a court clerk had allegedly advised the judge that the fines were too high. “Even if [Judge Burke] was not required to accept the clerk’s advice at face value, her comments put him on notice of an important issue and should have prompted him to make sure he was acting in compliance with the law,” the commission wrote.
Prior to his election to Southampton town judge in 2008, Burke had previously held the position from 1994 to 2000. Between 2000 and 2007, he was an acting State Supreme Court judge and a judge of the state’s Court of Claims. In addition to his judgeship, Burke is currently a partner at Burke & Sullivan, a Southampton-based law firm.