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Makowski exit as judge doesn't preclude possible disbarment

State Supreme Court Justice Joseph G. Makowski's resignation doesn't necessarily put off his day of reckoning with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

And a separate committee that could suspend or disbar Makowski has jumped on the case just days after the disgraced judge submitted his resignation letter under pressure from District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.

Sedita said that although Makowski avoided a criminal charge, he could still be stripped of his license to practice law because of his attempt to help lawyer Anne E. Adams escape a drunken-driving charge.

Makowski's testimony in an affidavit he submitted after Adams' arrest in September was at odds with what witnesses told investigators from the Erie County district attorney's office.

Sedita said he immediately notified the Attorney Grievance Committee of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court of Makowski's circumstances.

"I got a letter from them asking that his file be promptly turned over to them, and it will be," the district attorney said Tuesday.

Sedita has also said he would cooperate with the Commission on Judicial Conduct if it moves forward with its Makowski investigation, including turning over evidence his investigators have collected.

Makowski, 55, avoided a criminal charge Friday by recanting the affidavit, cooperating with prosecutors, agreeing to testify against Adams and resigning as a State Supreme Court justice.

The commission could still remove Makowski for cause, even though he has already submitted his resignation letter, effective March 5.

Robert H. Tembeckjian, the commission's administrator and counsel, said state law allows the commission to remove a judge even after a resignation.

"After a judge resigns, the commission, under the law, has 120 days to complete removal proceedings against that judge," he said. "There have been numerous occasions when we have done so in the past."

A commission decision to remove a judge disqualifies that person from ever serving on the bench again, Tembeckjian said.

Makowski resigned in the wake of the commission's investigation and a potential grand jury probe of written assertions he made while trying to clear Adams.

He had been at Shanghai Red's restaurant on the Buffalo waterfront with Adams in the hours before her arrest.

Adams' former attorney had filed the judge's signed statement as part of a motion to dismiss the DWI case against her in Town of Hamburg Court.

Sedita required Makowski to give up the judgeship as part of an agreement not to prosecute him.

Adams pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and two other misdemeanors related to her attempt to cover up her crime by talking her physician into changing the date of a blood test to show she was sober.

Sedita concluded that Makowski and Adams "tried to fix a case."

News Political Reporter Robert J. McCarthy contributed to this report.

e-mail: plakamp@buffnews.com

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