Municipal Court Judge Dawn A. Segal, an open lesbian, has been found liable for seven ethics violations stemming from improper conversations with a corrupt judge.
Segal stands accused of attempting to curry favor with then-Municipal Court Judge Josephs C. Waters by doing his bidding on three cases pending before her. Segal isn’t charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
But in a 38-page opinion issued July 21, the state Court of Judicial Discipline found Segal liable for seven ethics violations, including bringing disrepute to the judiciary.
The court can impose discipline on Segal ranging from a reprimand to permanent removal from the judiciary. A sanctions hearing is expected to be held within the next several weeks to determine Segal’s fate.
She’s been suspended without pay since February, though she continues to receive health-care benefits.
According to court records, Segal had multiple conversations with Waters in 2011-12 that violated the state’s judicial-ethics code. The FBI intercepted at least seven of the phone conversations, during which Segal indicated she’d rule consistent with Water’s wishes on three cases — and later informed him that she did so.
In one case, Segal granted a continuance. In another, she granted a petition for reconsideration. In a third, she prematurely downgraded a gun offense from a felony to a misdemeanor.
The Court of Judicial Discipline said Segal should have contacted authorities immediately after Waters requested favorable treatment for a friend. By not doing so, Segal indicated to Waters that he could keep asking for favors.
For her part, Segal maintained none of her rulings was influenced by Waters, though she acknowledged leading Waters to believe that he was influencing her. She also acknowledged the conversations were inappropriate, but noted that she cooperated with federal authorities investigating Waters for criminal wrongdoing.
Waters, 63, is currently incarcerated in a federal prison due to a fraud conviction. His scheduled release date is Nov. 27, 2016.
Prior to her suspension, Segal, 56, had been on limited duty. In January, a three-judge panel of the Court of Judicial Discipline held a daylong hearing on the matter.
Segal wishes to return to the bench, but she’s not seeking to be compensated for her withheld wages, according to court records.
She has until July 31 to file a response to the Court of Judicial Discipline’s findings, if she chooses.
Her attorney, Stuart L. Haimowitz, couldn’t be reached for comment.