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Sky-high bails cost N.Y. judge his job

A judge in Troy, N.Y., who set bail at $10,000 to $50,000 for people charged with minor offenses such as loitering or bicycle violations has lost his job.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A judge who set bail at $10,000 to $50,000 for people charged with minor offenses such as loitering or bicycle violations has lost his job.

The state’s highest court narrowly upheld the recommended removal of Henry R. Bauer from Troy City Court, in a decision that costs him his $113,900-a-year job and prevents him from ever holding judicial office again in New York state.

In a 4-3 decision, the state Court of Appeals said it found Bauer had committed “grievous misconduct,” including a pattern of setting excessive bail for low-level offenders.

One man spent seven days in jail when he could not meet the $25,000 bail Bauer set for him for riding a bicycle at night on a sidewalk without the appropriate lights. In another instance cited by the judges Thursday, Bauer set bail at $10,000 for a youth with a clean criminal record who had been arrested for loitering — mistakenly, it turned out.

“We see not an isolated instance of high or injudicious bail-setting, but a pattern of exorbitant bail so extraordinary that we must characterize it as abusive and coercive,” the majority of the court said in an unsigned decision.

The judges also cited a series of instances where defendants appeared before Bauer without proper legal representation, and cases where the judge resisted assigning a counsel for defendants unable to get one.

Combative attitude
In two cases, Bauer convicted people without a trial and without the defendants entering guilty pleas, the court said.

The court majority added that Bauer’s misconduct was exacerbated by a combative attitude toward the state Commission on Judicial Conduct’s investigation of his actions.

The three dissenting judges said Bauer should have been censured, not removed. They said focusing on relatively few cases among thousands of bail decisions Bauer made over a two-year period made his behavior seem worse than it was.

Bauer told The New York Times by telephone that while he was “not thrilled” with the ruling, “At the end of the day, which is where we’re at, everybody did their job.”

Bauer had been a judge in Troy, just across the Hudson River from Albany, since 1994. Bauer’s name is on next month’s ballot on four party lines, but the Rensselaer County Board of Elections said there is still time for the parties to list new candidates.