Former and aspiring candidates for various judgeships have been wondering how State Senator Marc Panepinto and his wife, State Supreme Court Justice Catherine Nugent Panepinto, navigate what they call “impossible conflicts of interest.”
They worry that attorneys who practice before Justice Panepinto could easily contribute to the candidacy of her husband, Senator Marc Panepinto, in an effort to gain favor on rulings that they may be seeking. The perception of a lack of impartiality could threaten the reputation of the Court, observers worry.
The rumor around town is that reporters from WGRZ Channel 2 News and The Daily Public have been comparing lists of Senator Panepinto’s campaign contributors to the names of the attorneys who have practiced in front of Supreme Court Justice Panepinto.
“What’s the process for recusing oneself when such an obvious conflict emerges,” asks a local attorney who is also an adjunct professor. “The legal community in Buffalo is small and very political, so it is inevitable that this situation has already come up on numerous occasions, so it’s important to ask how they have handled it when it has emerged.”
Complicating the criticism is Marc Panepinto’s history of election fraud, stemming from incidents in 2001 and 2005. He pled guilty in 2001 and his license to practice law was suspended.
“His demonstrated ethical lapses make us worry,” says an attorney who asked not to be named.