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Former Judge Hensley, reprimanded for attending illegal poker games, gets Suffolk court job

Former District Court Judge Paul Hensley on July

Former District Court Judge Paul Hensley on July 28, 2014. Hensley, who was reprimanded in 2012 for attending illegal poker games, has gotten a job in the Suffolk court system after losing re-election last fall. Photo Credit: James Escher

Former District Court Judge Paul Hensley, who was reprimanded in 2012 for attending illegal poker games, has gotten a $137,498-a-year job in the Suffolk court system after losing re-election last fall.

Hensley, 53, a Conservative from Northport, started work earlier this month as a court attorney. He will research and help draft decisions for State Supreme Court justices at the Cohalan court complex in Central Islip, Suffolk Administrative Judge C. Randall Hinrichs said.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct had censured Hensley for attending and playing in several Texas Hold'Em games in the summer and fall of 2008 at the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Northport. He was at the Eagles' building Nov. 5, celebrating the day after his re-election, when police raided the illegal game.

Playing in an illegal poker game is not a crime, but running one is. Under the law, that means that Hensley was witnessing a crime every time he played or attended games.

Hensley's "conduct showed insensitivity to the high ethical standards incumbent on judges and detracts from the dignity of judicial office," the commission wrote. Hensley's attorney at the time, David Besso, said the judge recognized his "poor judgment" but emphasized "nothing within the committee report reflects on his integrity on the bench."

"The censure from 2012 was something I was obviously aware of when I recommended him for the . . . position," Hinrichs said. But Hinrichs said Hensley's "wealth of legal experience and knowledge far outweigh his indiscretion." Hensley did not return calls for comment.

Hinrichs said Hensley was an assistant district attorney for eight years, a judge for 12 and a former special assistant town attorney and law secretary to two judges.

Republicans last year declined to renominate Hensley, who had GOP backing in earlier races. He was cross-endorsed by Democrats but was defeated for re-election.

Another former Conservative Huntington District Court judge, Andrew Kay, also a former Suffolk Conservative chairman, has been hired as a $112,232-a year court attorney referee, assigned to District Court in Ronkonkoma. Officials said the job will last three months.

Kay, a judge since 2011, retired after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. Hinrichs said Kay asked to remain temporarily to help with his final three years average salary for pension purposes, but said the proposal worked because he needed Kay to help ease the District Court's heavy backlog. Kay declined to comment.

Also, court officials said former Brookhaven District Court Judge Stephen Ukeiley, a Setauket Democrat who unsuccessfully sought a second term, has been hired as a $120,654-a-year court attorney referee in the Riverhead courts. He declined to comment.

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