Judge Peacock

Ithaca, N.Y. — Judith Rossiter has written a statement defending an Ithaca judge whose record has been publicly scrutinized a few days before an election.

Interim City Court Judge Seth Peacock, who is squaring off against two other candidates for the seat on Tuesday, was recently revealed to have been barred from several judges’ courtrooms.

“This has been a repeated problem which is totally unacceptable,” said a December 2011 letter to Peacock from Wesley McDermott, a supervising lawyer in the county’s assigned counsel program. The Voice published the letter on Friday.

In a message to the mayor, Rossiter — the outgoing City Court Judge who has endorsed Peacock — issued a defense of Peacock’s record.

Rossiter called the criticisms of Peacock unwarranted and unprovoked.

“I am sorry and sad that you have had to suffer insults from local attorneys during your campaign,” Rossiter wrote, according to a message being widely circulated by Peacock’s supporters.

“Without exception, every other attorney involved in this mischief missed appearances in City Court during my tenure, on more than one occasion – sometimes with significant consequences. I never agreed with other judges who think they have the power to say which attorneys will appear in court and which will not. To deprive a litigant of chosen counsel is a matter of Constitutional import.”

Rossiter’s email did not detail what the other candidates had done or say how many appearances they had missed.

Attorney Rick Wallace, another judge candidate, said he has maybe missed one court appearance a year. Wallace said he has never been barred from a judge’s courtroom.

Kristine Shaw, one of Peacock’s competitors, was cleared by an independent judicial review process to which she voluntarily submitted herself, according to Shaw’s campaign manager.

“I looked at Judy Rossiter’s email, and I don’t know to whom she is referring,” wrote Jason Leifer, the campaign manager.

Peacock — a Cornell Law School graduate who was appointed as interim Ithaca City Court judge July 7 — had been barred from appearing in the courtrooms of at least two Tompkins County judges.

This was done because Peacock missed court appearances, arrived late and/or arrived unprepared, according to documents obtained by the Ithaca Voice.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.