Judge locks up 46 people over ringing cellphone

Jurists behaving badly dept.:

According to the commission report, [Niagara Falls, N.Y. city court judge Robert] Restaino was presiding over a domestic-violence case when a ringing mobile phone interrupted proceedings. When no one took responsibility for the ringing phone, Restaino ordered that court security officers search for the device.

About 70 defendants were in the courtroom that day to take part in a monitoring program for domestic violence offenders. … After all the defendants denied having the phone or knowing who it belonged to, Restaino sent 46 people to jail. Fourteen who were unable to make bail were handcuffed and jailed for several hours.

The New York state Commission on Judicial Conduct removed Restaino from office Tuesday, calling his action “a gross deviation from the proper role of a judge.” (Janine Brady, “Panel gives judge a ringing rebuke”, CNN, Nov. 28; Elefant, Nov. 28).


  • The only truly amazing thing is that the system failed to bring criminal charges against the judge and all the bailiffs and others responsible for such an egregious act.

    The names of every individual involved in searching and arresting the citizens should be published as public humiliation for their fantastic lack of judgment for just following the judge’s orders.

  • judge should have been arrested on federal kidnapping charges and federal charges of violation of civil liberties. aren’t we innocent until proven guilty?

  • Actually, I think the term for what this judge did was “taking hostages.” “If the offender doesn’t come forward, I’m locking everyone up.” The first two commenters are absolutely right. The judge should not just be removed but prosecuted.

  • That’s nothing. Judges break the law all the time. Trouble is, the only people you can turn to for remedy is another judge. Take a look at my website and see what happened to me.

  • Wow, you all seem to be against the judge.
    I don’t think what he did was right (or even legal), but personally, I’d say the problem lies with the idiot who wouldn’t own up to his cellphone. If they had just stopped the phone ringing and apologized, the whole mess would never have happened.

  • Judge Janice Jack (she of the “red flags of fraud” silicosis MDL fame), in the SDTX, is well-known for confiscating the phone and fining the attorney $50, should his/her phone ring while court is in session. The “fines” she collects wind up going to treats for her court staff (day at the movies, pizza parties, etc.).

  • Kath–I am sure you would have felt the same way if you were carted off to the pokey because someone else didn’t admit. The bottom line is that this judge had no right to do this. None. Perhaps your liberty is unimportant to you–mine is not. This judge should be prosecuted and sent to jail for a very very very long time. I would not have a problem with LWOP. The abuse of power is that great.

  • I was once moderating a panel for an audience of judges that was interrupted by a ringing cell phone. The audience laughed when I noted that I was very happy to be in a circumstance where a judge was before me and his cell-phone went off rather than vice versa.