NY Appeals Court Rebukes Family Court Judge on Bias

MANHATTAN (CN) –  Reversing an order that jailed a Long Island man for four months over his failure to pay child support, a New York appeals court tore into a conservative Long Island judge for his unmistaken bias.

Justice Thomas Rademaker with the Nassau County Family Court handed down the harsh sentence in November 2016, ordering Michael Berg to spend four months in prison unless he paid nearly $518,000 to purge his child-support debt.

Though Berg, 53, failed to preserve his bias claim for the appeals court — having not entered any objection nor asked Rademaker to recuse himself — a unanimous order Wednesday from the Second Judicial Department says the issue must be tackled in any case “in the interest of justice.”

“Here, the record reflects that when the parties appeared before the Family Court judge, the judge took an adversarial stance toward the father and made numerous improper remarks to him,” the four-person panel wrote in an unsigned ruling. “The judge told the father, among other things, that he ‘symbolizes everything that’s wrong with the world today,’ and that he was ’selfish, self-interested, [and] self-seeking.’ The judge repeated similar remarks multiple times during the proceeding. The judge also called the father ‘lazy’ and ‘arrogant,’ and remarked that he was ‘the last guy that [the judge would] want to be in a fox hole with’ because he would ‘fold like a cheap suit.’ The judge compared the father’s accumulation of arrears to ‘an arsonist that starts a fire that kills one person, that kills ten.’ Additionally, the judge made the matter personal by comparing the father’s experiences to the judge’s own. For instance, the judge described his own past misfortune, and detailed how he picked himself up to became a judge. At the conclusion of the proceeding, the judge committed the father to four times the period of incarceration recommended by the support magistrate. Under the circumstances, the bias of the Family Court judge apparently unjustly affected the result of the proceeding to the detriment of the father.”

Rademaker, a 47-year-old resident of Long Island’s affluent North Shore, was elected on Nov. 4, 2014, for a term that expires on Dec. 31, 2024.

On remand, Berg’s case must go before a different judge.

Berg had also claimed that he had ineffective assistance from counsel before Rademaker, but the appeals court rejected this claim.

Judge Rademaker’s office did not respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

According to Newsday, Rademaker received 54,461 votes (1 percent) in his bid for New York State Supreme Court judge, 10th District, in last month’s election.

The appellate panel was composed of Justices Sheri Roman, Robert Miller, Francesca Connolly and Angela Iannacci.

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