North Elba justice resigns after state watchdog probes ethics complaint

LAKE PLACID — A North Elba town justice has resigned from his seat after a state judicial watchdog lodged a formal ethics complaint against him. The complaint accuses the former judge of retaliating against a Lake Placid attorney who had filed an ethics complaint against him five years prior.

Former town justice Alec Friedmann has now agreed to never hold judicial office again, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct announced last week.

Friedmann became a North Elba town justice in January 2019. That same year, Lake Placid attorney Brian Barrett says he filed a complaint against the judge with the CJC, but he declined to divulge what this initial complaint was about. Because of that initial complaint, Friedmann should have disqualified himself from presiding over criminal cases involving Barrett, since he had a “bias” against him, the CJC argued.

According to the CJC, Friedmann made judicial decisions without knowledge of all of the parties involved and dismissed charges without notifying or getting the consent of prosecutors. The CJC said it had previously cautioned Friedmann about “similar conduct” in the past. The CJC also said Friedmann demonstrated “bias and hostile demeanor” toward the defense attorney, “in retaliation” for a complaint that attorney filed.

Instead of responding with an answer to the CJC’s complaint — which the CJC provided to Friedmann on Nov. 20, 2023 — Friedmann wrote a resignation letter on Dec. 26, 2023 and left the position on Dec. 31. His resignation letter to the town court says he resigned with regret and that it had been a “privilege and honor” to serve for five years in the court.

“Unfortunately, my current personal situation precludes my ability to continue to do so,” he wrote.

Friedmann’s term would have expired on Dec. 31, 2026.

Friedmann, 78, was a non-attorney judge, a former prison chaplain and currently serves as a rabbi. He did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Empty seat

North Elba Justice Dean Dietrich is now the sole judge in town court and has been doing double duty for the time being.

North Elba town Supervisor Derek Doty said he’s been trying to fill Friedmann’s open seat on the bench since Dec. 31, “with no luck yet.” The town board can appoint someone to fill the role until the next election. The winner of that election would fill out Friedmann’s term until the end of 2026.

But no one has officially stepped up to take on the role, Doty said, and the town is still looking for interested parties.

Anyone interested in the position should contact Doty. He said someone with a background in law or law enforcement would be good, because it saves on the training it takes to be a judge.

Doty said he didn’t know what led to Friedmann’s departure but that he was a “great judge that served our community well.”

Dietrich said he was sorry to see Friedmann go. He was a “good colleague,” he said.


The CJC reached a stipulation with Friedmann — who represented himself — that he will not seek or hold judicial office again.

The stipulation is also what made this public.

Commission Public Information Officer Marisa Harrison said this procedure was introduced in 2003 and Friedmann’s case was the 132nd time it has happened. She said there are usually seven to 10 of these instances per year. Around half of these cases are over similar matters, Harrison said.

Barrett said he would not speak with the Enterprise but pointed to an interview he gave the New York Law Journal.

Barrett, speaking to the NYLJ, accused Friedmann of not being fair, taking things personally and not following judicial rules to “get back at people in the community.”

Barrett described one alleged case to NYLF in which he didn’t show up to court and told his client to not show up either. He said he had filed an affirmation of active engagement. Barrett said Friedmann tried to issue an arrest warrant for his client even though he was excused from court, but that the prosecutor stopped it.

Barrett told NYLJ he was satisfied with the result of his complaint. CJC Administrator and Counsel Robert Tembeckjian is, too.

“Apart from a judge’s obligation to be fair and courteous toward all who have business before the court, judicial retaliation against those who file complaints with the Commission is unacceptable and taken very seriously,” Tembeckjian said in a statement.


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