A former town judge in New York has been the victim of a personally and politically motivated gun confiscation scheme a full month before the state’s new red flag law is set to take effect, according to the judge’s lawyers at 2AWNY.
Law enforcement in Allegany County seized the firearms belonging to former Town of Allen Justice Bridgette A. Tojek after County Court Judge Thomas P. Brown suspended her license to own a handgun pending an upcoming hearing on July 31.
Tojek’s attorneys at the western New York gun-rights group 2AWNY released a statement arguing that the judge’s actions were prompted by personal and political animus rather than any valid disqualifying behavior.
“They leveraged red flag-style gun confiscation for the purposes of personal retribution,” 2AWNY’s Steve Felano told GunsAmerica. “They dislike her socially and politically, and the fact that she owns guns makes her a target.”
Tojek’s firearms were confiscated after a single member of the Allegany County Board submitted an ex parte affidavit requesting Tojek’s pistol license be suspended. Felano said the board member had a personal grudge against Tojek after the former justice said disparaging things about the board member in public.
An Allegany County Judge, Terrence M. Parker, also claimed that Tojek “continually disparaged me and my family publicly in her Court and in Town meetings.” Judge Parker asked Judge Brown to review Tojek’s pistol permit application because he “would have a predisposition to deny her application.”
Judge Parker made that request in April of last year; fifteen months later, Judge Brown suspended Tojek’s license and seized her firearms.
As a motivation for Judge Brown’s decision, Felano also mentioned an incident involving Judge Parker’s son, who was cited for a traffic violation but didn’t show up to his court date. When Tojek levied the full penalty on Judge Parker’s son, Felano claims, the judge wasn’t happy.
“She didn’t play by the good-ol’-boy’s rules and dismiss the ticket based on nepotism or familiar relations,” Felano said.
Judge Brown hasn’t provided any further rationale for his decision. In a letter to Tojek, Brown simply stated the time and place of the hearing and that the court would not provide her with a lawyer. He may have left one clue as to his court’s thought process, however, when he asked Tojek to bring “any documents with you that would aid the court in deciding this matter, such as mental health evaluations, etc.”
GunsAmerica contacted Judge Brown’s office but was rerouted to the Public Information Division of New York’s court system. Director of Public Information Lucian Chalfen said that Judge Brown cannot comment on this case since it is a pending matter in his court.
“This hearing, however,” Chalfen said, “stems from New York State Town and Village Justice Bridgette Tojek’s being relieved from her judicial duties by the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge who supervises all judges outside of New York City because of her behavior on the bench.”
Chalfen did not elaborate on Tojek’s actions, but asserted that Tojek will have “full due process rights at the hearing, that would include her lawyer being able to call witnesses and state her case to the Judge.”
This “due process,” of course, will happen after Tojek’s firearms have already been taken away.
Felano clarified that Judge Brown didn’t actually cite New York’s new red flag law as justification for the seizure, but the judge’s seize-the-guns-now-ask-questions-later strategy will soon be enshrined in New York state law – and other states should take notice. Especially in states with “may issue” permitting requirements, red flag laws are ripe for abuse.
“You see all the hallmarks of red flag laws happening here before the thing is even active, and it should be a wake-up call for people in New York State and all across the country,” Felano said. “In states with these ‘may issue’ pistol permitting systems, red flag type confiscation has been happening for a long time, but no one’s been aware of it and it hasn’t been as easy. But now it’s going to be very easy [in New York] because these unconstitutional means of confiscation will become enshrined in law in August.”
“I, along with other Second Amendment advocates, have pointed out that this type of gun confiscation will be abused by people who want to punish their enemies. And here you have a situation as a case in point of that very thing,” Felano concluded.
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Tojek’s case also shows the constitutional liabilities of New York’s pistol permit requirement.
“Judge Terrance admits in his letter that Ms. Tojek’s protected First Amendment actions would sway his judgment in granting or denying a permit,” Felano argued.
“As you can see here, we have one single judge acting in an administrative capacity who has the total power to suspend or give full force to someone’s Second Amendment constitutional rights, and is allowing a personal matter to affect that.”
2AWNY is a “force multiplier” for the numerous gun-rights groups operating in western New York, Felano said. It handles media relations and conducts policy analysis for all the groups, but most of its activity involves working with liberty-minded attorneys to sue the state over anti-gun policies, including the SAFE Act and other gun-control edicts like the red flag law.
Felano co-founded the group with fellow attorney Jim Ostrowski because he saw a need for the various pro-gun groups to unify.
“Western New York is a Second Amendment stronghold for the state, but every apparatus in state government is controlled by far-left autocratic legislators,” he said. “I saw a need for some unity in the movement, specifically in the 17 counties that make up western New York.”
Tojek’s hearing will take place on July 31 at 10:00 a.m. at the Allegany County Court House. 2AWNY encourages all Second Amendment supporters to attend, and there will be a press conference following.