Judge Vincent Sgueglia of the Tioga County Family and Surrogate’s Courts has been censure in a bizarre case after he took a loaded .38-caliber Smith and Wesson that discharged in his chambers. There is no rule preventing judges from packing heat in chambers in New York but the state Commission on Judicial Conduct declared that Sgueglia, 70, should not have approved his own concealed-carry permit.
One of the most striking facts in the opinion is the arsenal approved for the concealed-carry permit:
On or about November 3, 2005, respondent, a licensing officer authorized to review and issue pistol permits in Tioga County by virtue of his judicial office, approved his own Pistol/Revolver License Application for a “have-and-carry- concealed” license, authorizing his largely unrestricted possession of three pistols: a Kel Tec Automatic .380, a Glock Automatic 9 Millimeter and a Waither Automatic .22. The permit contained no restrictions. . . .
6. Between February 6, 2006, and September 15,2010, the Sheriff’s Department approved 14 amendments to respondent’s permit, noting the addition of 17 pistols.
The judge had been threatened in the past so that was no real debate over the basis for his safety concerns. However, he would keep a gun in a drawer in his office and that led to a near disaster:
On January 21, 2010, respondent carried a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver into the Tioga County Courthouse. Respondent knew there was a faulty mechanism on the revolver that was used to cock the firearm and rotate the cylinder. . . .
17. At about 10:30 AM on January 21,2010, during a break in court proceedings and while alone in his chambers, respondent decided to try to repair the mechanism. Respondent did not know that the revolver was loaded but as a standard protocol he pointed it in a safe direction at a concrete wall. While respondent was manipulating the revolver for repair, it accidentally discharged. Respondent does not know mechanically what caused the gun to discharge. Respondent did not check to determine if the gun was loaded, and when he started to fix it he still believed it was unloaded.
The bullet hit a wall with an elevator on the other side. Fortunately it was not a higher caliber that might have passed through the wall.
The Commission noted: “Upon reflection, respondent acknowledges that his chambers was not an appropriate location for hhn to have been repairing a personal firearm.”
Sgueglia has been the subject of a petition for removal in the past but it is not clear how serious the underlying allegations were or whether this was just a disgruntled former litigant.
While the commission voted for censure, one judge voted in dissent that the facts did not warrant disciplinary action.
Here is the opinion: Sgueglia.Vincent.2012.08.10.DET
Source: ABA Journal