Certain Judges Disqualified from Hearing DV & DWI Cases – Directive 04-09

[6/3/09 – 5:46 pm] The New Jersey Supreme Court has promulgated new procedures related to the authority of judges who have been charged with drunk driving or acts of domestic violence to hear these types of cases in the future. The Court’s revised Directive 04-09 implements the follow new procedures:

Drunk Driving – A judge who has been charged with drunk driving must immediately stop hearing all such cases. The prohibition on hearing DWI cases will continue indefinitely and will expire either one year following the imposition of sentence following a plea or finding of guilty or after all aspects of sentence have been completed, whichever is longer. Any pending, reserved decisions related to a DWI case before the offending judge will be decided by another judge on the papers or re-litigated before another judge at the request of the defendant.

Domestic Violence – A judge who is a party to a domestic violence matter may not hear any domestic violence cases while his DV matter is pending and for one year following the trial court’s disposition of the case. If a final restraining order is entered against the offending judge, he may not hear any domestic violence cases while the order is in effect or for one year from the date of the order, whichever is longer.

Practical Impact – The practical effect of the Directive will be to disqualify all judges charged with drunk driving from hearing such cases for a period that will always exceed one year. This is because the prohibition commences upon the filing of the complaint by the police and will continue for one year following the imposition of sentence. No “credit for time-served” is authorized under the Directive for the time between the filing of the complaint and the ultimate imposition of sentence. Typically, a first offense, non-school-zone DWI sentence can be completed within one year, so the longer one-year prohibition will almost invariably be the normal waiting period.

In domestic violence cases, a judge who is subject to a final restraining order will be permanently disqualified from hearing domestic violence cases and would only be able to hear such cases in the future by leave of the Supreme Court if the FRO is somehow vacated after the passage of one year from the date of the order. In addition even a judge who was wrongfully accused of an act of domestic violence would be subject to the one-year prohibition following the entry of an order dismissing the DV complaint and would have to seek relief from the Supreme Court to rescind the prohibition.

Download a copy of Directive 04-09.

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