Albany County Court Judge William A. Carter has been censured by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.
In a determination dated March 31 — and made public on Friday — the commission found Carter should be censured for two reasons.
The first reason: Carter was involved with an improper “ex parte” communication in a criminal case, relying on the information obtained and failing to tell the parties.
The second reason: Carter failed to report cases pending longer than 60 days on his required quarterly reports of pending cases.
The “ex parte” incident — which means in the interest of one side only — dates to January 2018. According to commission documents, Carter was presiding over a murder trial in which the defense counsel moved to preclude certain evidence pertaining to the defendant’s phone conversations from jail.
Commission officials said that without telling the district attorney or defense counsel assigned to the case, Carter called and spoke to a deputy sheriff at the county jail and asked how inmates are notified their phone calls are being monitored. He then relied on that conversation, according to the commission, in deciding the defense motion. The decision was made without informing either side of the “ex parte” conversation with the deputy sheriff.
“A judge may not make or rely on unauthorized, private fact-finding calls in rendering decisions,” said commission Administrator Robert H. Tembeckjian, in a press statement. “Nor may a judge keep such calls secret from the parties, who are entitled to know, make a record of and challenge whatever the judge was privately told. With all his experience on the bench, Judge Carter should have recognized and avoided such obvious misconduct.”
Carter, a county court judge since 2017, served as a judge in Albany City Court from 2002 to 2016.
The commission has previously cautioned and censured Carter for unrelated misconduct in the past.
That misconduct includes, among other things, coming off the bench in 2006 and physically confronting a defendant appearing in his courtroom.
Carter also was privately cautioned by the commission twice. In 2004, Carter failed to disqualify himself in arraignments of unrepresented defendants,
even though the complaining witness and alleged victim was his co-judge.
In 2012, he appeared as guest of honor at a fundraising event for a civic organization.
Carter has accepted the censure. His current term expires on December 31, 2026.