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Not-guilty verdict for judge shouldn't mean case over

New York State Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills was found not guilty last week of driving under the influence and now 10 days later she’s back on the bench presiding over a big case--a hearing to determine whether to release Daniel Rakowitz, who boiled his girlfriend and then fed her body in a soup at homeless shelters. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity 15 years ago, but for purposes of this editorial, he’s not the point, she is. Justice Mills refused a sobriety test. Her drinking companion testified she was effectively bombed after drinking scotch for hours.

The cops testified she was slurring, had difficulty walking after she plowed her father’s Rolls Royce into parked cars. Even though the cops who arrested her were black and Hispanic, she claims they singled her out because of her race. And even though the defense presented no evidence to support her allegations of racism, a minority jury bought it and found her not guilty. OK, fine. The verdict must be accepted, but that does not mean that the state judicial panel cannot and should not take its own action to maybe suspend her.

How can she have any credibility sitting in judgment when she says she distrusts the system so much that she’s unwilling to submit to a sobriety test? And remember when the rest of us refuse the test, the presumption of innocence shifts to a presumption of guilt. You automatically have your license suspended.

There are many instances where a professional organization investigates even though no crime has been committed—it happens to lawyers all the time, and how about police officers who are accused of crimes and then acquitted? At times they’re still punished within their departments or even prosecuted for federal civil rights violations. Look at President Clinton impeached by Congress for lying under oath. No crime charged there. Judges are too important to have questions as to whether they are abiding by the rule of law that they’re empowered to uphold.