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Everyone hates getting a parking ticket, and Glenn J. Caldwell, a former New York Administrative Law Judge for the Parking Violations Bureau (PVB), was no exception. Over the course of several years, Caldwell successfully used his knowledge of PVB procedures to evade 167 parking tickets totaling some $12,000. A recent decision rendered by the Appellate Division, First Department, reveals that although Caldwell was no longer a judge, he would place his old identification card on the dashboard of his automobile in an attempt to dissuade traffic agents from ticketing his vehicle. Further, he ordered two vanity plates which contained a confusing series of numbers and letters (Y50V26 and 4GZZ50) which provided him with a technical defense to tickets when recordation errors were made by officers. He also placed objects on his vehicle's dashboard which obstructed the registration sticker, and obscured the fact that he was using vanity plates. Eventually, Caldwell settled with the PVB by paying only $8,225, avoiding both interest and late fees.
While financial penalties were skirted, Caldwell did not get away scott free. In 2003, he was charged by the First Department Disciplinary Committee with multiple violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility--rules that apply to all lawyers--for his misconduct in devising and executing this scheme.
At a hearing on these charges, Caldwell admitted that he obtained the vanity plates to deceive PVB agents, but said that he later realized that it was an "error in judgment." Despite this "revelation," Caldwell denied having any intent to obscure the registration sticker. For this latter violation, he placed the blame on an occasional driver of the vehicle, a person who died in 2003. Caldwell further argued that prior to this lapse, he had an unblemished disciplinary record. He also clained to have demonstrated that he was remorseful, actively involved in community service, had supportive testimony from three character witnesses, suffered from psychological conditions, and, due to existing technicalities, had been excused from paying the tickets. An unsympathetic judicial hearing officer disapproved of Caldwell's "chicanery and contempt for the law" and recommended that Caldwell be suspended (prohibited from practicing law) for a two-year period.
The Appellate Division, First Department, later reviewed the case and increased the proposed suspension to three years. Given Caldwell's "inability to appreciate the seriousness of his misconduct" and relative station as a former judicial officer, the appellate court concluded that heightened punishment was warranted.
If nothing else, the outcome of this case should give you pause next time you're tempted to evade or discard a parking ticket; particularly if you're an attorney.
For a copy of the Appellate Division's decision, please click on the following link: