A Lockport City Court judge has been censured by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct for presiding over 2,500 cases involving a credit union where his brother is a member of the board of directors.
Judge Thomas DiMillo, who also serves as an acting Niagara County Family Court judge, was censured by the commission for not recusing himself from 2,548 cases, between 2005 through 2016, that involved the Cornerstone Federal Credit Union.
DiMillo's brother, Anthony, served as vice president, president, first vice chairman and on the executive committee of the board of directors of the credit union during that time period. Judicial conduct rules clearly state that judges who have family members who serve on the boards of companies that have pending litigation before that judge must rescue themselves from those cases.
While the commission said they didn’t find that DiMillo gave any preferential treatment to the credit union, in its decision it noted that judges are expected to recuse themselves when there is even “an appearance” of a conflict of interest.
DiMillo accepted the commission's findings and censure and his lawyer, Joel Daniels, said the judge was "no longer handling credit union cases."
"Jude DiMIllo has been a city of Lockport judge for the past 14 years, and carries the respect of lawyers, litigants and staff," Daniels told the Gazette.
He said DiMillo cooperated fully with the commission's investigation.
"Judge DiMillo acknowledges his failure to recuse himself in Cornerstone Federal Credit Union cases," Daniels said. "It was an inadvertent error on his part."
DiMillo will remain on the city and family court benches. Daniels said DiMillo "looks forward to continuing to serve the Lockport community.”
“A judge should not preside in a case where a close relative is on the board of one of the institutional parties,” Judicial Conduct Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian said. “Even if the relative’s role is passive and the matter is uncontested, a judge’s participation, and any rulings favoring the relative’s interests, would inevitably appear to be biased.”
The commission said DiMillo claimed he didn’t know about the rule barring him from involvement where he knows someone who is an officer of one of the companies in a case. But he also told investigators from the commission that he should have implemented “safeguards” when he started on the bench and that he “regrets his failure to abide by the rules in this matter."