CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – A judge who helped shield her husband’s assets from creditors says she is willing to accept a three-month suspension without pay.

The suspension, which was recommended by a disciplinary committee last month, is harsher than the public censure that Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Patricia Coffey and her lawyer once advocated, but it falls far short of Gov. John Lynch’s more recent call for Coffey’s resignation.

The state Supreme Court will hold a hearing Feb. 6 to consider the committee’s recommendation. In a letter to the court Friday, Coffey’s lawyer said his client now believes the suspension is severe but appropriate.

“This case, both in its own context, and in the context of other judicial discipline cases, does not warrant, or justify, any more severe sanction,” Russell Hilliard wrote.

Coffey, who has been a judge since 1988, was accused of creating a trust to shield her lawyer-husband’s assets as he was being investigated four years ago on misconduct allegations. John Coffey later was disbarred.

Judge Coffey initially denied wrongdoing and said the timing of the trust was an innocent coincident. She later admitted her actions violated judicial conduct rules by creating an appearance of impropriety but said she had created the trust to shield her husband’s assets from frivolous lawsuits, not legitimate creditors.

When the disciplinary panel met to consider Coffey’s penalty, both her lawyer and the panel’s lawyer recommended public censure only, citing Coffey’s long service, the stress of her personal life and the fact that her misconduct was not criminal. They also asked the panel to consider that Coffey had cooperated with her husband’s creditors when she realized that the $75,000 debt was outstanding.

But in its brief to the state Supreme Court on Friday, the disciplinary panel’s new lawyer, Richard McNamara, questioned Coffey’s level of cooperation. The debt was not paid until a lawyer had be hired to collect it, he wrote. And Coffey agreed to make payments only after her role in the trust’s creation had been reported to the Judicial Conduct Committee.



Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.cmonitor.com

AP-ES-01-26-08 1225EST


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