By Mark Reynolds
Last Friday the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct censured long-serving Lloyd Judge Terry Elia for making inappropriate Linkedin posts and for serving as a peer support member of an Ulster County Sheriff’s Office team.
Censure is the second highest punishment the commission can meter out, just shy of removal from office.
Commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian issued a statement on the matter.
“A judge must be and appear impartial, or public confidence in the integrity of the courts may be compromised. Extracurricular alignments with law enforcement entities, even in a good cause, can be problematic. So, too, must a judge avoid partisan politics, except when running for judicial office,” he stated.
On September 28 the Commission issued two charges, alleging that from September 2020 through July 2021, Elia, on his Linkedin profile that identified him as a Judge, liked, shared and/or commented on publicly visible posts that in the commission’s opinion, “cast doubt on his ability to be impartial in law enforcement matters of public controversy; constituted public comment about a pending or impending proceeding in another court within the United States; and appeared to lend the prestige of his judicial office to advance a private fundraising appeal.”
In July 2021 Elia shared a post on Linkedin with a depiction of a Civil War soldier.
A post underneath the picture stated, “BECAUSE BLACK LIVES MATTERED, approximately 620,000 white soldiers died in the civil war in order to obtain freedom for the black slaves. The average age of the soldiers was 25 years. This does not include the Medics, both men and women. In retaliation AGAINST slavery, the Republican party was born. Many of our black brothers died also fighting to free the nation of slavery, approximately 180,000. PLEASE STOP TELLING ME TO REPENT. The blood of our fathers is reparation enough.”
The Commission also noted that in September 2020, Elia shared an article from the ‘Police Tribune’ that reported on shots being fired during riots in Louisville after a grand jury indicted just one of three officers in a police shooting. The Commission noted that Elia “liked” a comment by an individual who wrote: “Give the police better non-lethal weapons that will end these riots quick, like water cannons and similar devices, less injuries all the way around.”
The Commission noted that Elia, who is a Republican, “liked” posts that were critical of President Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer – all Democrats and Republican House member Kevin McCarthy, while announcing the re-election to Congress of Rep. Claudia Tenney of New York.
A second charge stated that from 2012 through April 2022 (when Elia received the complaint) the judge, “cast doubt on his ability to act impartially in matters involving law enforcement,” by serving on the Sheriff’s Critical Stress Management Team. The Commission stated that when Judge Elia volunteered with the Sheriff’s team he did not identify himself as a judge while providing peer support, but instead said he was a firefighter, a former U.S. Army medic and military policeman. Elia lends counsel to those who have experienced traumatic events. He told the Commission that he sometimes provided counseling and that he never counseled anyone who came before him in the Lloyd Town Court.
The Commission pointed out that while Judge Elia liked, shared or commented on a post, he was unaware of the platform’s privacy settings and also did not see how others could see how his activities could cast doubt on his ability to be impartial when serving in his role as a judge.
“He now recognizes the appearance of impropriety created by his actions and regrets having ever participated in it,” according to the determination.
The Commission pointed out that Elia, 68, has served as a Lloyd Town Judge since 1998 and has never been disciplined in the past.
Judge Elia issued a statement through his attorney, Deborah A. Scalise, of Scalise & Hamilton. Here is his statement in full.
“It is with a heavy heart that I accept the Determination of the Commission, which noted that I am not trained as a lawyer, but that I made certain errors relating to my conduct in my private life (via social media and volunteer work), which may negatively impact the public’s perception of the judiciary. For that, I am very sorry.”
Judge Elia said he is proud of his 25 years of service to the Town of Lloyd.
“In that time I have done my best to ensure that all litigants, as well as others that appeared before me, were treated fairly and with dignity. There is no evidence otherwise.
“I note that I volunteered as part of a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team to provide confidential assistance to help other public servants, including in large part, First Responders and military veterans, who were suffering emotional distress. My intent in doing so was not to favor anyone in law enforcement, but rather to save lives. I did this work at my own expense since 1992 and engaged in peer support in Westchester County, prior to becoming affiliated with the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department. However, no matter which CISM Team I was affiliated with, I never indicated in any way that I was a judge, but only as a firefighter, former US Emergency Medical Technician and Military Policeman. Notably, there is no evidence that anyone I may have worked with as part of a CISM team, or for that matter in any case whatsoever, ever appeared before me or received favorable treatment by me in the Lloyd Town Court.”
Elia concluded by stating, “I am mindful of my obligation to ensure that there is no misperception of my conduct as a Justice of the Lloyd Town Court. Moving forward, I am dedicated to doing my best to serve the taxpayers as a Justice of the Lloyd Town Court.”