Paul Hensley, Long Island Judge, Censured for Playing Poker

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This sounds like it should be pretty obvious, but some in New York's judicial system apparently need a reminder: if you are a judge, don't play illegal poker games.

Such is the lesson learned by Paul M. Hensley, a Suffolk County District Court judge, who was censured for doing exactly that.

According to the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, Hensley "attended and participated in a series of illegal poker games held at the clubhouse of a fraternal organization to which he belonged...The games were illegal because, among other things, the organizer kept a portion of the ante (i.e., 'raked the pot')."

So what exactly happened?

In 2008, these illegal games were reportedly taking place at Northport's Fraternal Order of Eagles, of which Hensley was a member.

In November of that year -- "the day after he was re-elected to District Court" -- Hensley was there, playing poker, when police searched the premises.

Players didn't get handcuffed, but the poker promoter got charged with gambling-related offenses.

However, the Commission took particular issue with Hensley's judicial status -- and how he made mention of it during the games and at the time of the arrest.

First, the board felt that since everyone at the game knew Hensley was a judge, that his presence lent a false sense of legitimacy.

Also, the Commission worried that he threw his weight around when the cops showed up, noting: "the judge compounded his misconduct by identifying himself as a judge during the police search, which 'convey[ed] an appearance that he was asserting his judicial position to obtain special treatment.' In its totality, the judge's 'reckless behavior showed extremely poor judgment' and 'insensitivity to the high ethical standards incumbent on judges.'"

Yep, extremely poor judgment. That sounds about right.

Anyway, the judge has since openly recognized his screw-up with the Commission.

We reached out to the number listed for his office, but nobody picked up.

We wanted to know how Hensley could have ever thought that playing an illegal poker game -- while being employed as a judge -- was a good idea.

We'll update if we get through to his chambers.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.


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2 comments
Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Wow it must be a really slow news day in New York if this is presented as such a top story. We should thank our lucky stars that we have judges like Judge Hensley.  He has had an exemplary career as a judge and a citizen of the New York Suffolk county.  Playing in a poker game as it may have been poor judgement for a man in his position, is not the end of the world.  His contribution to our justice system and the safety of the citizens of Suffolk County far outways an evening game of poker at a club.  Get a grip Village Voice why don't you focus on real news not just gossip mongering and trying to smear someone who has made an extremely postive contribution to our society.  Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Ethics matter
Ethics matter

Wonder which good friend wrote this.  He probably is a great guy, but just like out teachers and police, certain positiosn come with ETHICS whether they are silly or not.  That opinion is yours.  If a judge is not supposed to partake then he shouldn't no matter what it is.  There are many ethics laws for certain occupations that are being very much overlooked.  If you don't like them, get a different job.  It doesn't sound as though he is being overly punished for this, so why are you making such a big deal.  Since the public votes they have a right to know.

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