Archive for Friday, November 5, 2004

K.C. judge who admitted gambling addiction resigns

November 5, 2004


— A municipal judge who admitted she was addicted to gambling and had taken loans from lawyers resigned Wednesday.

Judge Deborah Neal, 54, went on paid leave Aug. 16 from a job paying $123,744 a year. Neal, who became a judge in 1996, did not give a reason for the resignation.

After being hospitalized for treatment of depression, she is getting outpatient therapy.

Neal had said through an attorney that she had a gambling problem and received loans from lawyers. A judicial ethics commission is investigating, and her bailiff and court clerk received subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury.

In April, Neal was among patrons at a casino in Kansas City, Kan., that was raided and shut down by authorities. She had filed for bankruptcy four years ago, listing debts that included $48,000 in federal income taxes. Court records show that for the past two years about $1,730 has been deducted from her pay every two weeks for debts related to the bankruptcy case.

In a statement Wednesday, Neal's attorney, John Kurtz, said no lawyer sought to exert improper influence on her decisions, which he said were always based on the law and the evidence.

"Deborah deeply appreciates the many kind expressions of concern and affection from friends and professional associates," the statement said.

Charles DeFeo, a retired judge, had been filling in for Neal, but Municipal Court Administrator Bernard Schneider said Wednesday was his last day.

Meanwhile, another municipal judge, Victor Rocha, confirmed Wednesday that he will retire Jan. 1 after 20 years. The city charter says municipal judges should retire at 65, and Rocha is now 66. In staying on, he had argued that state law would allow him to work until 75, but in a letter to the presiding judge Rocha said the timing was right for him to retire.

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