Niagara Falls, N.Y. judge ousted for jailing people for ringing cellphone

Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2007 | 11:41 PM ET

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - A judge who jailed 46 people who were in his courtroom when a cellphone call interrupted proceedings was removed from the bench Tuesday by a state commission.

Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert Restaino "snapped" and "engaged in what can only be described as two hours of inexplicable madness" during the March 2005 session, Raoul Felder, chairman of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, wrote in the decision to remove Restaino from the $113,900-a-year post.

A phone rang while Restaino was hearing the cases of domestic violence offenders who had been ordered to appear weekly to update the judge on the progress of their counselling. A sign in the courthouse warns cellphones and pagers must be turned off.

"Everyone is going to jail," Restaino said.

"Every single person is going to jail in this courtroom, unless I get that instrument now. If anybody believes I'm kidding, ask some of the folks that have been here for a while."

"You are all going."

When no one came forward, Restaino ordered the group into custody and they were taken to jail, where they were searched and packed into crowded cells. Fourteen people who could not post bail were shackled and bused to another jail.

Restaino ordered them released later that afternoon.

Restaino told the state panel he had been under stress in his personal life.

His lawyer, Terrence Connors, said Restaino would appeal.