Gun-toting judge may be outlawed

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The decorum of the New York judiciary has been rudely punctured by a bitter feud - punctuated by name-calling and implied death threats - between a Long Island judge and a prominent defence lawyer,

Judge Marc Mogil has never been a figure of conformity. The vanity plate on his car used to read "GUILTY", he has brandished a gun in the courthouse and advertises his passion for flying with a full-size mannequin that stands by his desk dressed in a pilot's uniform.

His days on the bench may be numbered, however. The state judicial commission has formally accused him of harassing the lawyer, Thomas Liotti, by sending insulting and threatening messages. A referee may recommend as early as tomorrow that the judge be disbarred.

The war between the two men apparently began when Mr Liotti, as president of the local Bar association, invited the noted civil rights attorney William Kunstler, who died earlier this year, to speak at a meeting. Judge Mogil despised Mr Kunstler and began his campaign against Mr Liotti.

Mr Liotti has testified that he began receiving the missives from Judge Mogil about two years ago. They were often signed "Wyatt Earp",and usually bore stamps of cartoon characters.

At first, the messages were simply insulting, addressing Mr Liotti as a "donkey turd". Subsequently, however, one contained a plan of where Mr Liotti lived with an "X" over the position of his house. The message read: "Do you see how easy it is to disappear from the face of the earth, Tommy Boy".

Mr Liotti may have contributed to the feud with remarks at a swearing- in of judges in Judge Mogil's county. He offered a list of "13 things to avoid to be a good judge". Later, the judge presented Mr Liotti with 50 copies of "13 ways to avoid being an obnoxious lawyer".

Judge Mogil denies the charges. "I love being a judge,'' he said. ''I love having an input into people's lives. I have a wall full of letters from people whose lives I have changed."