It started out as a routine judicial ethics complaint that the behavior of Judge ShawnDya L. Simpson of Kings County, New York, “had become erratic and at times intemperate,” and that she’d arrive to court late, or leave early or was a no-show when scheduled to preside. But as reported by the New York Times, it turned into a sad situation that’s cut short a prominent Black woman’s career.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct opened an investigation into Judge Simpson’s behavior in mid-2019. In August of that year she took medical leave, and this week, it was announced Judge Simpson, who is only 54 years old, was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and would retire from the bench on October 31st.
Robert H. Tembeckjian, the commission administrator, made the following statement on the situation:
“This is as sad a situation as I have encountered in over 40 years of judicial ethics enforcement. The commission sought to balance its responsibility to ensure public confidence in a capable judiciary with compassion for Judge Simpson and her family over her heartbreaking Alzheimer’s diagnosis. We wish her well in retirement and hope her example makes people more aware of how to recognize and cope with this insidious disease.”
Tembeckjian and Simpson’s lawyers made a joint statement as well, hoping Judge Simpson’s forthrightness will hopefully to destigmatize the disease:
“Both the Administrator and the attorneys for Respondent appreciate the enormous emotional impact a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease can have on an individual, a family, and a community of personal friends and professional colleagues, especially where, as here, the disease has already reached an advanced stage in the life of a relatively young and highly accomplished individual. The signatories hope that Respondent and her family will share years of enjoyment in her retirement, that further progression of the disease will be slowed by application of the best available science, and that her legacy will be burnished by her fortitude in revealing her condition and the degree to which this action might de-stigmatize Alzheimer’s Disease and inspire others to learn more about how to recognize and cope with it.”
Judge Simpson also made a poignant statement:
“I came from a ZIP code that doesn’t often spawn the kind of life, family and career I have been blessed to enjoy,” she said. “My life has been a little Black girl’s American dream.”
Best of luck to Judge Simpson on this next phase of her career.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).