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Justice David T. Reilly rejects recusal request by Suffolk Conservatives

Reilly is hearing a case involving an effort by party dissident Kenneth Auerbach to throw out the election of Frank Tinari as party chairman.

Suffolk County Conservative Party chairman Frank Tinari on

Suffolk County Conservative Party chairman Frank Tinari on Oct. 18, 2016. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

State Supreme Court Justice David T. Reilly, a Republican, has rejected the Suffolk County Conservative Party's request to recuse himself from party dissident Kenneth Auerbach's latest lawsuit to throw out the election last September of Frank Tinari as party chairman.

“The court has conducted an extensive examination of its conscience and can absolutely state that it can and will be fair and impartial to all parties,” Reilly said.

The Conservatives made the recusal motion after hiring attorney David Besso to join Vincent Messina, the party’s longtime elections lawyer in the case.

Minor party leaders moved for recusal because Reilly for the past two years has recused himself repeatedly from cases involving Besso’s law firm, Long Tumminello LLP, because it was involved in matters concerning the dissolution of Reilly and Reilly, the judge’s former law firm, prior to his election to judicial office.

In court papers, Besso said recusal in the Conservatives' case was “warranted and necessary” to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

In rebuffing the request, Reilly questioned whether Besso’s hiring “was strategic in nature.” Citing another court ruling, Reilly wondered whether the move amounted to “improper judge shopping.”

“While I recognize the strength of those words,” said Reilly. “Based on the facts and circumstances which have evolved in this proceeding, I can think of nothing less drastic.”

Besso appealed Reilly’s ruling but was denied a stay from the Appellate Division in Brooklyn last Thursday. But he could raise the issue later on appeal.

The Conservatives are seeking to dismiss the case because neither Auerbach nor any other party dissident tried to run against Tinari at the party convention.

Auerbach declined to comment on the party’s motives in hiring Besso, but said, “I just want to have the voices of Conservatives heard and counted at the convention.”

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