A village justice in Westchester County should be removed from office after he engaged in professional misconduct and lacked candor about a combined two-year suspension to practice law, according to a determination from the state Commission on Judicial Conduct released Monday.
Attorneys and justices on the commission voted Elmsford Village Court Justice Carlos Gonzalez, a Democrat, should be removed from his post in wake of the misconduct that occurred in connection with six incidents with clients.
"It would be contrary to the public interest and common sense to bar someone from appearing in court as a lawyer, but not from taking the bench and deciding legal issues," Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian said in a statement Monday.
The U.S. District Court of Western Connecticut suspended Gonzalez from practicing law after finding he engaged in professional misconduct while working as an attorney and failing to notify Connecticut's Appellate Division of his discipline in a timely manner, violating a state statute.
In 2017, the Connecticut's U.S. District Court in Western Connecticut found Gonzalez failed to notify the Court of the Connecticut about his violation and subsequent discipline.
His total two-year suspension from practicing law in New York started May 14, 2021. The Appellate Division suspended Gonzalez for his professional misconduct for an additional 18 months to expire in July 2023.
Gonzalez took office April 5, 2021.
"Judge Gonzalez compounded his misconduct as an attorney and further undermined his integrity as a judge by being less than candid with the Appellate Division about his disciplinary history," Tembeckjian said.
The justice submitted a late, undated written opposition to the commission in January when acknowledging the facts surrounding his past suspensions.
Gonzalez also lacked candor when responding to the Ninth Judicial District's Grievance Committee about the misconduct, according to the determination.
The commission ruled Gonzalez should be removed from the bench for his pattern of professional misconduct paired with an insincere attitude about the disciplinary actions detract from the integrity of judicial office.
"[His] professional misconduct and his lack of candor demonstrated that he is unfit for judicial office," according to the commission's determination.
Commissioners based the decision on disciplinary precedent to reprimand judges for their misconduct as an attorney and judges' obligation to behave in a manner that promotes high standards of public integrity and impartiality.
Gonzalez argued he should not be removed from his post or disciplined for misconduct that took place before he became a judge. The commission rejected the argument saying his remaining on the bench "would significantly undermine public confidence in the dignity and integrity of the judiciary."
"Given the seriousness of respondent's professional misconduct as evidenced by his two suspensions from the practice of law, as well as the court's finding that he lacked candor in his dealings with the Grievance Committee, we believe that [Gonzalez] should be removed from the bench to protect the integrity of the courts," according to the determination. "... Under these circumstances, removal is required."
The commission's April 13 decision comes several weeks after hearing virtual oral arguments about Gonzalez's misconduct and suspension to practice law.
Gonzalez represented himself in the proceedings before the commission. Robert H. Tembeckjian, Mark Levine and Melissa DiPalo represented the commission.
Gonzalez's term expires March 16, 2025. He was first admitted to practice law in 2005.
Town and village justices serve part-time and are permitted to practice law privately.