The circumstances surrounding the forced resignation of Melissa Ringel on April 20th , who had headed the Appellate Division, First Department’s program for mediating appeals has raised questions about former Appellate Division Justice James M. McGuire’s conduct after he left the bench in 2011 and joined the Dechert law firm. He is now a partner at Holwell Shuster & Goldberg.
Ringel resigned following the release of a report by the Office of Court Administration (OCA) faulting her and her husband, Frank Esposito, for issuing an unauthorized “opinion,” which aided one of Esposito’s clients. The OCA Inspector General’s report rebuked her for conduct that was “extremely troubling and at the very least creat[ing] an appearance of impropriety.”
Ringel had been McGuire’s law clerk for several years while he sat in the First Department.
Ringel’s conduct was highly irregular. According to her deposition testimony, she acted to aid Esposito’s client without a referral for mediation from a panel of the court. Her job as chief mediator for the court was to enable it to pare down its caseload by attempting to mediate appeals, which the court designated as appropriate for a negotiated resolution.
Moreover, the manner in which Ringel freelanced the mediation violated one of the basic norms of American jurisprudence: that all parties (except in an extreme emergency) must be informed of court proceedings and be given an opportunity to be heard.
Questions about McGuire’s conduct are raised because he used Ringel’s opinion, despite being aware of its being unauthorized, to advance a client’s appeal before the Appellate Division, First Department.
McGuire did not respond to an email requesting comment.