A state commission looking at whether judicial license plates help judges dodge parking and traffic tickets declared Wednesday there was no problem.
But one of the panel’s own members slammed the report as “an exercise in evasion.”
“The failure of our report to confront the issue head on ... betrays a pragmatic queasiness with the possibility of withdrawing an established, longstanding perk for the judiciary," wrote veteran attorney Richard Emery, a member of the Commission on Judicial Conduct. "Public confidence will further erode if we exempt our judges from equal application of the law — no matter how minor."
The commission started probing the issue in August after an upstate judge — who served in the Office of Court Administration advising judges on ethics — helped fix a ticket for herself and for the wife of another judge.
At the time, the commission declared the possible abuse of judicial license plates to dodge parking and traffic tickets was potentially pervasive.
The commission also noted it had "repeatedly" looked at cases where judicial plates inspired cops to deep-six parking and traffic violations for judges.
But Wednesday's 14-page report said such plates were not a problem.
State records show 2,265 state, local and federal judges use the specially marked plates on their private vehicles.
The 10-member commission issued a finding that declared judicial plates "do not create an appearance of impropriety."
Four commission members are judges, two of whom have judicial plates.
The toughest recommendation in the report was to order the Office of Court Administration to put the issue on the agenda of training programs for judges.
Even the report itself made clear the commission keeps running into this issue: "Over the years in the course of investigating other complaints of ticket-fixing, the Commission has been advised by law enforcement officers in various parts of the state that at times they have declined to issue tickets to motorists whom they stopped for speeding, once they realized by virtue of license plates that the drivers were judges."
Emery blasted the findings, citing numerous cases of judges fixing or trying to fix tickets, and even of one judge being driven home by cops to avoid drunk-driving charges instead of being arrested.
"Though judges are unequivocally prohibited from using their judicial status to obtain special treatment for themselves, their families or friends, they are legislatively authorized to flaunt their judicial status on their personal vehicles wherever they go," he wrote. "This schizophrenic message inevitably leads to bizarre scenarios involving special treatment being afforded and accepted by judges."