A Ramsey County District Court judge was publicly reprimanded Wednesday by the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards for driving drunk on New Year’s Day.
Judge G. Tony Atwal was criticized for putting himself and the public in danger and for using his job as leverage.
“When Judge Atwal invoked his judicial title after the police officer stopped his vehicle, he abused the prestige of judicial office by creating the perception that he was using his position in an attempt to get the police officer to release him instead of arrest him,” said the letter dated Wednesday.
The board rejected Atwal’s claim that he brought up his title so, were he arrested, he could be separated from inmates who might have had cases before him.
The board found that Atwal violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by breaking the law and abusing his office. He was ordered to remain law abiding, follow conditions of his probation and attend quarterly meetings for two years with a board member or the board’s executive secretary.
A public reprimand is the board’s highest finding of misconduct.
“Judge Atwal accepts full responsibility for his actions,” said his attorney, Richard Thomas. “He deeply regrets they occurred, and he continues to work on his recovery.”
Two complaints about the judge were filed with the board following his arrest. Atwal also self-reported the incident. He waived a formal complaint and public hearing, meaning that the board’s reprimand is final.
According to the criminal complaint: An officer saw Atwal’s car speeding on Kellogg and John Ireland boulevards in downtown St. Paul about 12:45 a.m. The car failed to stop at a stop sign.
Atwal’s eyes were bloodshot and glassy, and his speech was slightly slurred. He was given a second breath test at 2:34 a.m. and registered a blood alcohol content of 0.17 percent.
Atwal pleaded guilty to one count of gross misdemeanor third-degree driving while impaired. A second count of gross misdemeanor third-degree driving while impaired and one count each of misdemeanor careless driving and failing to stop at a stop sign were dismissed.