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Former Head of Harbor judge resigns amid misconduct allegations

Head of the Harbor's justice court. The village's

Head of the Harbor's justice court. The village's justice, Ellen Fishkin, resigned recently amid allegations of misconduct. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Former Head of the Harbor Village justice Ellen Fishkin was being investigated by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct on misconduct allegations, which included allegedly shoving a prosecutor, when she resigned this spring, according to a release Thursday from the commission.

"The allegations against Judge Fishkin were multiple and serious," commission administrator Robert Tembeckjian said in the release. "Under the circumstances, Judge Fishkin’s departure from office is appropriate."

Fishkin, who took office in 1996 and resigned May 6, agreed never to seek or accept judicial office again in a May 17 stipulation with the commission that was finalized last week. By resigning and signing the stipulation, she avoided possible sanction or removal from office, said Marisa Harrison, the commission's public records officer.

Fishkin, a Head of the Harbor resident, could not be reached. She represented herself in proceedings before the commission, according to the release.

According to the stipulation, Fishkin "shoved or pushed a Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney" outside her courtroom in 2019, when the courtroom was full of lawyers and litigants. She accused another ADA of being "anti-Semitic" when the prosecutor would not offer a lenient plea to an associate of the judge’s husband in a vehicle and traffic law matter.

The stipulation also says she turned court recording equipment on and off in the middle of court proceedings, presided over traffic cases without an ADA present and locked the court while traveling to prevent the associate justice from presiding over matters in her absence.

In April, the New York State Comptroller’s office referred findings of a justice court audit to the Suffolk County District Attorney's office after auditors discovered court financial records were missing. A former clerk "did not work sufficient hours to properly conduct the administrative and financial business of the court" and the presiding court justice "did not provide adequate oversight," auditors found.

Mayor Doug Dahlgard confirmed to Newsday at the time that Fishkin was the presiding justice during the audit period. In an email Thursday, he said village officials had been unaware of the commission's investigation. He declined to comment on specific charges against Fishkin or the commission's decision but said Fishkin had presided over the village court for two decades without compensation.

Head of the Harbor’s justice court operates independently of the village board that oversees most village operations. Generally held monthly at Village Hall, it has jurisdiction over criminal matters committed within the village and other local matters including traffic offenses, collecting in some years more than $100,000 in fines and fees. For weeks, the municipal website has carried a notice that "Justice Court is currently adjourned."

Dahlgard last month appointed Judge Jack Toomey to run the village court but said a newly hired court clerk was still being trained.

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