Judge suspended for 60 days in emergency commitment case

Last modified: 7/11/2015 12:45:05 AM
The New Hampshire Supreme Court has suspended a judge for 60 days without pay after an angry outburst at a deputy sheriff and his related dismissal of an emergency commitment case involving a suicidal woman.

Manchester Circuit Court Judge William Lyons was publicly censured for his misconduct and ordered to pay $30,000 to cover the cost of the investigation by the Judicial Conduct Committee.

He declined to comment on the suspension, a judicial spokeswoman said. His suspension takes effect Aug. 1.

A Judicial Conduct Committee referee found that Lyons lost his temper at a deputy who refused to remove restraints from a 48-year-old woman who was the focus of the emergency involuntary commitment petition. Lyons then dismissed her case without a hearing. The referee, Paul Fauver, said the potential harm of dismissing the petition was enormous because the woman was in danger of hurting herself.

The commitment hearing had been scheduled for May 31, 2013, based on a petition from a mental health worker who handles the woman’s case. The worker said the woman threatened to kill herself if she was evicted from her apartment, which was expected to happen in a matter of days. The hearing was scheduled in a courtroom in the mental health wing of Elliot Hospital, where Lyons was also hearing other commitment cases.

Lyons, through a staff member, instructed Deputy Sheriff Matthew Poulicakos to remove the woman’s wrist and leg restraints. The deputy refused, citing security reasons and his department’s policy. Lyons told the deputy while they were in a corridor to “have your boss do the hearing.”

The judicial council referee determined that Lyons “continued his impatient, discourteous and demeaning behavior” toward Poulicakos into the courtroom and in his written order days later.

The committee found, and the Supreme Court affirmed in its order, that Lyons violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by not controlling his temper and by denying the woman a hearing.

Lyons contended that the woman and her lawyer had no right to be heard “because the hearing could not be conducted in a lawful manner given the refusal of the deputy to remove the restraints.”

Fauver wrote that Lyons acknowledged the events took place but “takes no responsibility for them.”

Attorney Earl Carrel was appointed to represent the woman. He told the judicial conduct committee that, in 27 years of practice, he had never seen a judge that angry. Carrel did not immediately return a call seeking comment on his client and what happened to her after the dismissal.

Lyons, in a summary of the incident he wrote in May 2013, said Poulicakos placed him in a “completely untenable situation of ceding control of the process to a mid- to low-level employee of the Hillsboro County Sheriff’s office.”

It’s the first suspension of a New Hampshire judge since 2008, when Judge Patricia Coffey was suspended for three years, based on a finding that she was involved in a fraudulent property transfer. She resigned days after the suspension was issued.


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