I must admit, I don't know Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert Restaino. To date, we've refrained from passing judgement on the man accused of "an egregious and unprecedented abuse of judicial power" by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct (CJC).
Restaino, you may recall, put 46 defendants behind bars after no one would take responsibility for a ringing cell phone in his courtroom. This action has lead to Restaino being placed on paid suspension while the New York Court of Appeals reviews the decision by the CJC that ordered the judge permanently removed from the bench.
I'm sure there are two sides to this story. One would assume that there are signs outside the courtroom directing those who enter to turn off all cell phones. They are a distraction and an annoyance at times. But, someone could have simply forgotten to turn his or her phone off. It happens. It doesn't excuse the infraction, but, it's not life and death.
What I'd like to know is who was the coward who wouldn't take responsibility for the phone when Restaino asked whose phone it was. And since you are responsible for dozens of other people going to jail and for the likely removal from the bench of one well-respected judge, how the hell do you sleep at night?
The Niagara Falls City Council has shown their support for Restaino. They voted unanimously to authorize city attorneys to file a brief with the state Court of Appeals in support of Restaino.
Niagara Falls activist Ken Hamilton stated that he believes the decision was unfair to Niagara Falls voters. Really? What about the nearly four dozen people who were jailed in Restaino's temporary lapse in judgement, most of whom are likely from the Falls? Was it unfair to them to be fingerprinted, locked up and forced to post bail with no due process whatsoever?
Whatever the outcome, I do wish Restaino the best. From what I've heard, he is a fair judge with a strong history in the community. Removal from the bench is too harsh of a punishment for one momentary lapse for someone with his track record. Let's hope he's learned his lesson and gets a second chance-we all deserve one.