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Harrietstown justice resigns amid pending disciplinary actions

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SARANAC LAKE — Harrietstown Town Justice Howard Riley has resigned the position after being served with formal disciplinary charges by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

According to the commission, as part of a stipulation agreement resolving the matter, Mr. Riley, justice since Jan. 1, 2008, has agreed not to seek or accept judicial office again. His term was due to end Dec. 31, 2015.

According to the agreement, Mr. Riley was served Feb. 26 with a formal written complaint containing two charges of alleged misconduct in his handling of cases between January 2010 and December 2011. The allegations included, among other things, that in numerous cases, predominantly vehicle and traffic law violations, Mr. Riley engaged in inappropriate conversations with defendants at their arraignments and other appearances before him and allowed them to make potentially incriminating statements.

It also was claimed that Mr. Riley dismissed or reduced charges without notifying or seeking the consent of the Franklin County district attorney’s office, as required by law. In several cases, Mr. Riley made statements that appeared to coerce defendants into entering guilty pleas and, in a small claims action, he directed a defendant to present his defense first, before the claimant presented his case.

Mr. Riley, who is not an attorney, tendered his resignation June 1 and left the bench Aug. 1. His unexpired term is expected to be filled in the November election.

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