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Judge Who Brawled With Neighbors Will Remain on N.Y. Bench

A Buffalo-area judge who brawled with his neighbors and shoved a police officer will be censured but will remain on the bench, a state commission ruled on Tuesday, drawing one of the stranger sagas in New York State judicial history to a close.

The decision comes nearly four years after Erie County prosecutors declined to charge Mark J. Grisanti, a former state senator and acting State Supreme Court judge, in the June 2020 episode.

The gentle treatment of Justice Grisanti, who is white, created controversy amid a national reckoning over race and policing, raising questions about what the public can expect from those in positions of power.

Terrence Connors and Vincent Doyle, lawyers for Justice Grisanti, said in a statement that the commission’s decision was the product of a thorough review that had examined “every inch” of the judge’s career.

“Today’s decision concludes that on balance, Justice Grisanti’s conduct during a two-hour period of one day, compared to his excellent record as a judge, does not warrant removal from the bench,” they said.

In the decision, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct acknowledged that Justice Grisanti’s behavior was unbecoming of a jurist, adding that he had exercised “exceptionally poor judgment.” Even so, the commission said that there were mitigating circumstances, including the judge’s genuine concern for his wife’s safety, recent loss of several family members and long-running feud with his neighbors, the Mele family.

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