[06/19/11 – 12:18 am] On Friday, the New Jersey Supreme Court officially reprimanded a Superior Court Judge for engaging in a screaming tirade in open court directed at a pro se female litigant. The tirade was characterized as “repugnant and offensive” and a “vicious and unjustified attack” by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC). The repirmand came about following an ACJC review of the audio recording of the judge’s abuse of the litigant. The transcript, in part, revealed a colloquy that included the following:
THE COURT: Well, ma’am, let me tell you something.
MS. P.: I do.
THE COURT: You need some serious help.
MS. P.: Okay.
THE COURT: Because you have no clue what it is to be a
MS. P.: Okay. [My child’s father] has a severe mental illness.
THE COURT: Ma’am, keep your mouth quiet. When I talk,
you listen. Don’t you dare talk back to me. I don’t know who
you think you’re talking to, but you do not dare talk back to
me. You understand that?
MS. P.: Yes.
THE COURT: Then obey it. I’m not some friend of yours
out on the street. I’m a Superior Court judge that demands the
respect of my position, and you will give it to me. And you
will not convince me that it’s okay for your daughter to go
spend time with strangers, but can’t with her own father,
because you know what you forgot? Let me remind you. There’s
only one reason why he’s her father, that’s the decision you
MS. P.: And i t was a bad one.
THE COURT: Ma’am – – so, what does that tell me about
your judgment? If you made a bad decision choosing him as a
father, why should I believe anything about your judgment today?
Well, you just admitted, you’ve got bad judgment.
Download a copy of the Presentment returned by the ACJC in In re Baker.
[06/06/11 – 9:07 am] The Appellate Division has clarified an important component of municipal court procedure dealing with the qualification for municipal court public defender services. In State v. Mierzwa, the defendant was tried on two occasions in the municipal court and subjected each time, following conviction, to consequences of magnitude. Although he had requested the services of the public defender, his request had been denied due to the fact that his spouse’s income (which was imputed to him) brought him outside the current indigency guidelines. The Appellate Division reversed the defendant’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The Court ruled that the municipal court public defender statute (NJSA 2B:24-9) must be construed with the Superior Court public defender law. That statute provides that rather than simply imputing a spouses income to the defendant (as the municipal court judge did) the court may consider, where appropriate, the willingness and ability of the defendant’s immediate family, friends or employer to assist the defendant in meeting defense costs. (See NJSA 2A:158A-14.) Since there was no evidence before the court suggesting a willingness of the spouse to help fund the defense, the defendant had been improperly denied public defender services.
Download a copy of State v. Mierzwa.
[06/02/11 – 8:33 am] For the most part, a person who has been convicted of drunk driving or refusal to submit to a breath test is barred from asserting ANY cause of action for personal injuries, pain & suffering or property damage arising out of an accident related to the drunk driving case. This result is mandated by NJSA 39:6A-4.5. However, yesterday, the New Jersey Supreme Court confirmed an Appellate Division decision that carves out an exception to the statute. In Voss v. Tranquilino, the Justices ruled that a convicted, intoxicated driver may maintain a cause of action against the bar that served him alcoholic beverages while he was visibly intoxicated. This cause of action, authorized under New Jersey’s Dram Shop statute is still viable, despite the general prohibition on law suits by convicted drunk drivers.
Download a copy of Voss v. Tranquilino.