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Court upholds judge's suspension for groping employee at court-system outing

The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld the suspension of Paul Sushchyk as a probate and family judge for "intentional, nonconsensual, and unwelcome" groping of a court worker at an outing and then lying about it - and said he should remain off the job until the legislature and governor decide whether he should be booted off the bench permanently.

The ruling by the court, which oversees the operations of all the other courts in the state, upholds findings by the Commission on Judicial Conduct that Sushchyk grabbed a woman's buttocks as she passed by him at a table at a restaurant at which participants in an annual probate-court retreat had gathered one night in in Brewster in 2019 - and that he then changed his story even knowing that judges, above all others, have a responsibility not to lie.. Or as the court put it:

As the respondent passed behind her stool, the complainant felt a hand grabbing her left buttock and squeezing it for several seconds. The respondent then joined the group at the complainant's table, standing directly to the complainant's left, and eventually offered to buy everyone at the table a drink.

Shocked and unsure what to do, the complainant did not visibly react to being grabbed and after approximately between ten to fifteen minutes excused herself from the table and made her way out of the restaurant. Prior to leaving, she did not reveal to anyone what had occurred, although she tried to alert one of her colleagues at the table by raising her eyebrows and giving the colleague "pointed looks." The colleague recalled that the complainant gave her "a particular look with her eyes . . . very wide-eyed" about five minutes after the colleague observed the respondent pass behind the complainant and approach the table, but the colleague did not understand what the complainant was attempting to communicate.

Upon leaving the restaurant, the complainant got in her car and immediately sent a text message to her sister, which stated, "OMG. I think one of the judges grabbed my butt on purpose." After her sister responded, the complainant continued, "He's also carrying a hip flask, so maybe just fell? Except it was a distinct pinch." Earlier, the respondent had shown the complainant and her colleagues at the table a flask he was carrying. Then, in a text message exchange with two friends following the second day of the conference, the complainant wrote, "I just attended a conference for judges and while at the bar after dinner one of the newer judges full palmed my ass. I am still reeling a bit today from it. Kinda thought maybe it was a mistake until today he spent the day hovering uncomfortably around me."

The court summary continues:

Approximately a week later, the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court met with the respondent and presented him with the complainant's written statement. After reading it, the respondent responded, "I couldn't have done something like that. I wouldn't do something like that. I would never hurt anyone, especially a woman." Ten days later, he submitted a written statement in response to the allegations, understanding that it would be sent to the Chief Justice of this court. In it, he now recalled having unintentionally touched the complainant. According to the statement, he had gone to the bathroom after finishing a drink at the table with the complainant and her colleagues. While returning to the table, he explained, "I was somewhat unsteady on my feet, feeling the effects of past hip replacement surgery, the long day . . . , the evening meal and the alcohol consumed. I recall that as I began to pass by [the complainant], to steady myself, I placed my hand in the direction of her chair and came into momentary contact with a portion of her lower body."

Citing a 1974 ruling, the court concluded:

That the standards imposed on judges are high goes without saying. Because of the great power and responsibility judges have in passing judgment on their fellow citizens, such standards are desirable and necessary and there should be strict adherence to them. Failure on the part of even a few judges to comply with these standards serves to degrade and demean the entire judiciary and to erode public confidence in the judicial process.

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Comments

if he had gone with the second lie first he'd be good?

/s

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I remember reading a story where a transit cop did the exact same thing to an employee at North station. The difference was he was terminated and arrested and a judge found him guilty of indecent Assault and Battery.

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