Brian Levine, a traffic court judge in Staten Island for the Department of Motor Vehicles, is back and neither lawyers nor drivers appear thrilled. Levine was dispatched to take anger management and “human relations” classes two years ago, but reports indicate that he still has a bit of a sharp edge in dealing with traffic violations.
Levine was the traffic court version of a hanging judge — racking up the highest conviction rates of any traffic court judge in New York and producing $1 million in fines for the DMV. Despite continued objections to his abusive behavior and arbitrary rulings, DMV supported Levine as a cross between Robespierre and Judge Roy Bean.
In one notable case, Levine refused to accept a photocopy of a permit for a Metropolitan Transportation Authority mechanic to road test a bus stating “Not that I’m telling you that you guys would have the audacity to make phony photocopies. I’ll be very blunt with you. I think you guys would. OK. I don’t trust the MTA. I don’t trust any government agency.” He then reportedly unleashed a tirade about how he sees TA bus drivers “on that parkway every day, and I’m fed up with seeing your buses on there.” Levine is also known for allegedly ignoring drivers by doodling on a pad while they speak in court.
The DMV has fought efforts by journalists to uncover complaints about Levine. There is a curious relationship between the DMV and these judges. It is in the interest of the DMV to keep judges like Levine as “good earners.” There is little reason to keep a problematic traffic court judge, which is an extremely low-level judicial position that is largely administrative in nature. The failure to remove Levine is reminiscent the record-setting DUI state trooper who was recently fired after years of alleged false arrests.
Levine has been given written reprimands and placed under supervision.
These judges are DMV employees, which raises a bit of an appearance of a conflict for drivers. I am not sure why such positions are not part of the standard court system. If the DMV is to operate its own court system, it should guarantee greater transparency as well as competence in its administration.