Albany County Surrogate's Court judge removal upheld

ALBANY — Cathryn M. Dyle won’t return to the bench, on June 26, the New York State Court of Appeals upheld a previous ruling by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to revoke her judgeship on the Albany County Surrogate’s Court, where she had served since 2000.

There were nine instances where the state’s top court found Doyle, who lives in New Scotland, had committed misconduct which dealt with three different people, each a separate charge.

Thomas Spargo was a close friend of Doyle, and had been her attorney at one point as well as represented cases that went through her court. Spargo was removed from office by the Commission on Judicial Conduct in 2006 due to his activity soliciting money from lawyers who went through his court so he could pay his own court bills — a defense that stemmed from his electioneering for Berne Town Judge.

The opinion given by the Court of Appeals notes that Doyle is the godmother of Spargo’s son, and also that she was censured in 2007 due to her misleading and evasive testimony during the commission’s investigation into her role in Spargo’s solicitation activities.

The Court of Appeals also saw misconduct in Doyle’s actions regarding cases brought forth by her campaign manager, Matthew J. Kelly, while she was running for re-election for Surrogate’s Court in 2010. Kelly was also heavily involved in Doyle’s 2007 run for Supreme Court Justice.

Doyle also presided over cases submitted by her personal attorney William J. Cade, who represented Doyle in the case that resulted in her censure in 2007.

In her case before the Commission on Judicial Conduct last November, as well as her challenge of its decision to revoke her judgeship, Doyle’s petitioner, William J. Dreyer maintained that “prior to 2011, the ethics opinions were unclear as to a Surrogate’s disclosure or recusal obligations in nonadversarial matters,” the majority opinion by the Court of Appeals said.

“However,” the opinion continues, “a judge’s obligation to disqualify herself based on the appearance of impropriety has long been in place and has not been dependent on the nature of the proceeding.”

The majority opinion was agreed upon by Chief Judge Lippman and judges Susan P. Read, Robert S. Smith, Jenny Rivera, and Shelia Abdus-Salaam. Judge Victoria Graffeo took no part.

Judge Eugene F. Pigott, in his dissent, asserted “the charges here are few and minor and involve only an ‘appearance of impropriety’ and concededly resulting in no impropriety in-fact.”

Pigott held that censure would have been a more fitting sanction for Doyle’s misconduct than outright removal.

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