The state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct has disciplined a Lewis County judge it says presided over cases involving people she previously represented as a lawyer.
The commission on Friday approved a stipulated order of admonishment against Lewis County Superior Court Judge Joely A. O’Rourke. An admonishment is the least severe disciplinary action issued by the commission.
The order says O’Rourke violated parts of the Code of Judicial Conduct when she presided over a case in which she had previously served as the defendant’s attorney and made comments attesting to the defendant’s character that “may have reasonably given the impression that she was not impartial in the matter,” according to a news release.
O’Rourke worked as a public defender in Lewis County before becoming a judge in 2017. An investigation showed O’Rourke repeatedly presided over cases involving people she had previously represented.
The Code of Judicial Conduct requires a judge disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge served as a lawyer in the matter. The commission said O’Rourke asked for advice from more senior judges and believed such conflict could be waived.
The commission noted she “was very new to the bench” and had no prior disciplinary history.