New York State Town Judge Charged with Stealing from Court

Posted on: December 6, 2023, 02:48h. 

Last updated on: December 7, 2023, 11:32h.

A former justice for the small town of Moravia in Cayuga County, NY, has been charged with fourth-degree grand larceny after she was allegedly found dipping her fingers into court coffers.

Justice June Shepardson, Moravia town court, New York
The Moravia town court, above, where Justice Shepardson served for more than 20 years. She has admitted to having a gambling problem, for which she has sought help. (Image: Auburn Citizen)

Former Justice June Shepardson was suspended by the town court in July amid an investigation by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct into a missing $6,000 she allegedly took from the Town and Village of Moravia. She resigned from the position she had held since 2001 on Sept. 1, 2023.

In New York State, town and village courts are local courts that typically handle traffic tickets, criminal matters, small claims, and local code violations, such as zoning.

Gambling Addiction 

Few details are available about the case, although Shepardson’s lawyer, J. Justin Woods, said in October that his client had a gambling problem and was seeking help.

Unfortunately, near the end of her service, Justice Shepardson developed a gambling addiction for which she is now in recovery,” Woods said. “She appreciated the opportunity to serve her community on the bench with fairness.”

Woods added that his client is looking forward to “returning to private life” and continuing her recovery, while “helping [to] bring awareness and treatment resources about gambling addiction to those isolated in rural areas.”

There is a cluster of casinos around Moravia, which is located in the state’s Finger Lakes region, including the Cayuga Nation’s Lakeside Entertainment I and II and the del Lago Resort & Casino. Woods said his client was currently in the process of excluding herself from all the casinos in New York State.

Public Confidence ‘Undermined’

Fourth-degree grand larceny is a Category E felony in New York and doesn’t carry a mandatory minimum prison term. However, those convicted could face a maximum of four years.

Town and village court justices are responsible for safeguarding, reporting, and promptly remitting all official monies collected by their courts from fines, fees, and other sources,” said Robert Tembeckjian of the state Judicial Conduct Commission.

He added that “failure to do so undermines public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.”

Bad Judgment

Instances of judges succumbing to gambling addiction and crime are rare, but not unheard of. The most high-profile case was that of U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous, who was impeached and removed from office by Congress after being found guilty of corruption in 2010.

Porteous admitted to struggling with gambling and drinking problems, which led to him accepting thousands of dollars from lawyers whose cases he was hearing. He was only the eighth federal judge to be removed from office by impeachment in U.S. history.

He died in 2021 at age 74.

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