Shakeup at First Department

Within the past few days, Susan Hernandez-Roura, the top aide to First Department Presiding Justice Luis A. Gonzalez, was abruptly transferred to the Supreme Court in the Bronx in a move that sources close to the court describe as a “shakeup.”

Several sources reported that Ms. Hernandez-Roura left her position as Justice Gonzalez’ executive assistant without any announcement or even a memorandum to the court’s judges.

David Bookstaver, the court system’s spokesman, confirmed that Ms. Hernandez-Roura has been reassigned to the Bronx where she will be working for  Administrative Judge Douglas E. McKeon to settle cases in the Bronx court. Mr. Bookstaver said Ms. Hernandez-Roura will continue to be paid the same salary she received as Justice Gonzalez’ executive assistant, $126,000.

Ms. Hernandez was one of three persons at the First Department who were identified by name in a report issued by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, faulting the court’s hiring practices for non-attorney staff. The report cited a total of six instances in which close relatives of employees at the court had been hired as a result of a word-of-mouth process. Finding that the process reeked of favoritism, the commission recommended—and the court system adopted—several reforms, but did not make any findings of misconduct against Justice Gonzalez who was the subject of the investigation.

According to the commission report, Ms. Hernandez-Roura asked Justice Gonzalez if her nephew could be considered for a position at the court. Ms. Hernandez thereafter interviewed her nephew, as did Justice Gonzalez, and he was hired as a court analyst at a salary of $58,298.

The second person at the First Department identified in the commission report was Ms. Hernandez-Roura’s predecessor, Elba Castro,whose nephew was  hired as a senior court clerk at the Appellate Term, also at a salary of $58,298.

The third was Justice Gonzalez, whose ex-wife was hired as a paralegal at the Departmental Disciplinary Committee. She earned an annual salary of  $64,800 from her hiring in December, 2010 until she was laid off in a round of cutbacks in May, 2011. Ms. Castro has also since left the court.

© DJWise 2012

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