Feb 28


Disgraced former judge returns to the bench

Louis Violanti resigned from Lackawanna City Court a decade ago after a bizarre ticket-fixing scandal. Now he's getting another shot at the job.

Lackawanna City Hall.

A former Lackawanna judge who resigned in disgrace 11 years ago is getting a second chance at the job, which pays close to $100,000 a year.

Lackawanna Mayor Annette Iafallo will appoint Louis Violanti an associate city court judge effective March 1, a spokesman for the city confirmed.

 Violanti, 50, held that same post from 2007 until 2013, when he stepped down in the wake of a ticket-fixing scandal. 

In December 2012, Violanti promised a friend he’d “take care of” a citation the friend had been given for an expired registration, according to an investigation into the incident by the Erie County District Attorney. The judge took the ticket from the friend. The following month, when the friend was due in court, Violanti gave the ticket to a Lackawanna police officer assigned to his courtroom. The judge instructed the officer to impersonate the friend, who was not present, then dismissed the ticket “in the interest of justice.” 

The charade was captured on audio.

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Word of the incident spread, investigations commenced, and Violanti resigned two months later. County prosecutors charged him with official misconduct but granted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, meaning the charges were eventually dropped.

A state attorney grievance committee the following year ruled that Violanti had engaged in “serious misconduct” and suspended his law license for two years.

“The 2013 ticket-fixing incident, while unquestionably unethical, was highly uncharacteristic of Mr. Violanti’s otherwise stellar record,” Chuck Clark, Lackawanna’s public information officer, told Investigative Post.

In an email, Clark cited Violanti’s “mostly-distinguished 20-plus year track record” as a lawyer and volunteer in the community. He noted that the former judge had “served out his sanction” and his law license had been restored.

“Mayor Iafallo believes Mr. Violanti is both highly qualified and deserving of a second chance,” Clark wrote.

The associate judgeship is currently held by Violanti’s older brother, Gary. 

It’s not the only job title the brothers have had in common.

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After Violanti resigned in March 2013, then Mayor Geoff Szymanski replaced him with Norman LeBlanc, a city attorney who was also the mayor’s father-in-law. LeBlanc himself had been cited for professional misconduct in 1998 for falsification of court documents, and the Erie County District Attorney had barred him from being a public prosecutor.

Szymanski then hired Violanti to fill LeBlanc’s spot in the city’s law department.

Violanti had to give up that post when his law license was suspended the following year. However, his brother Gary took the city attorney job in 2016. And in 2017 — after Louis’s license was restored — the two brothers shared the job and its $40,800 city salary, while also running a private law practice together in Hamburg. Gary Violanti left the firm when he became a judge in 2018. 

Louis Violanti’s first go-round as city court judge began in 2007, when he was appointed by then Mayor Norman Polanski. Back then the job was part-time and paid $5,800 a year.

“I’m blessed to have it,” Violanti, who’d been an assistant district attorney, said at the time. 

By the time Violanti resigned in 2013, city court judge had become a full-time gig, and he made over $60,000 the year of the ticket-fixing incident. 

Gary Violanti made $98,000 in 2022, according to state payroll records.

Neither Violanti responded to requests for comment. Lackawanna’s two city court judges serve six-year terms.

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