Wayne Co. judge to be censured for holding hearing without lawyer present

(Photo: MGN)

Huron, N.Y. – A Wayne County judge will be censured for holding a hearing without the presence of the defendant’s attorney.

The ruling comes from the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct after a complaint was filed in November 2018.

Judge Kathy Wachtman of the Huron Town Court reportedly held a preliminary hearing for a defendant, during which the defendant’s attorney was not present. Wachtman herself is not an attorney.

On April 26, 2017, Wachtman was overseeing a preliminary hearing for Tysean Harris on drug and traffic charges. Before the hearing began, Harris' defense attorney had not arrived in court as he was in another hearing in federal court at the same time for a sentencing hearing for another client.

Wachtman went on to hold the hearing with no attorney present in court. She did not tell Harris that he was allowed to testify on his own behalf, call witnesses and cross examine each of the prosecution's witnesses.

In May 2017, Harris was offered a plea deal through the Wayne County District Attorney's Office for a reduced charge. He accepted and agreed to the plea in exchange for a sentence of time served.

“It is fundamental to the role of a judge to ensure that defendants are not only apprised of their rights but also afforded a meaningful opportunity to exercise those rights,” Commission Administrator Robert Temeckjian said in a statement. “Derelictions of such essential duties, in even a single case, are serious violations of the rule requiring judges to be faithful to and professionally competent in the law. To her credit, Judge Wachtman accepted responsibility and is expected to honor the rules scrupulously going forward.”

Wachtman was first elected as a Huron Town Court Justice in April 2013. She is slated to be in office until her term expires on December 31, 2021.

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