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Current New Jersey News & Views -- 2008

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Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice, and to rob the poor of my people of their rights, in order that widows may be their spoil, and that they may plunder the orphans.
--Isaiah 10: 1-2


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November  2008

EDITORIAL: Judicial imperialism

Washington Times

11-28-08 -- Whatever one's view of gay rights, its activists seem to unintentionally be taking the country closer to legal chaos. Take two recent cases, one from each coast. . . . Last week, the New Jersey attorney general pressured the online dating giant, eHarmony Inc., into a settlement requiring it to offer services to homosexuals. Never mind that gay-dating sites already crowd the Internet or that eHarmony was founded by an evangelical Christian psychologist to provide a unique faith-based approach to dating. Now eHarmony Inc. must develop a Web-dating service for same-sex couples, pay a $50,000 fine and pay $5,000 to the man who filed the original complaint because, he claims, his rights were violated when he couldn't meet gay men on eHarmony. We suppose he can use his $5,000 settlement check to sue his neighborhood bakery for offering doughnuts but not bagels. . . . Where does the principle established by the eHarmony settlement take us? Can a dressmaker be sued if she will not also make suits for men? Can a vegetarian sue a butcher who doesn't offer heads of lettuce? Businesses in New Jersey have entered a legal Twilight Zone where, at least theoretically, they can be sued for everything they do do.


Ocean County Judge should have recused self

Posted by: "John Paff"

11-19-08 -- In a November 19, 2008 opinion, the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division held that an Ocean County Family Part judge should have recused himself from a case in which the judge, before becoming a judge, employed and represented the plaintiff's second wife. . . . The name of the Family Part judge was not disclosed in the opinion. The practice of the Appellate Division is to not identify judges who are reversed or criticized. But, the Appellate Division often identifies judges whose decisions it affirms. The decision is on-line at

 http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a0755-07.pdf


Mathesius tossed from bench

Controversial judge denied reassignment

By Linda Stein

11-18-08 -- Superior Court Judge Bill Mathesius, a colorful former prosecutor and politician whose outspoken ways as a jurist stirred controversy, will not be reappointed to the Mercer County bench, The Times has learned. . . . Mathesius, 68, was seeking to retain the $165,000-a-year post until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2010. . . . However, Gov. Jon Corzine has decided not to reappoint him after "a close examination of his record," Robert Corrales, a spokesman for the governor, said yesterday. . . . Mathesius could not be reached for comment. His current term ends Jan. 11 and Corzine's decision affects whether his tenure would be extended beyond that date. . . . The judge, known for his erudite vocabulary and scathing wit, ran afoul of the state Supreme Court nearly two years ago for remarks he made on and off the bench. . . . Mathesius cast the conflict as a dispute over his rights to free speech but the state's high court saw it differently.


Update: Ex-municipal court judge's lies over go-go bar incident 'injurous' to judiciary, supervisor says

By Michael Deak • Staff Writer

11-12-08 -- In testimony Wednesday at the judicial misconduct hearing of former municipal court judge Richard Sasso, Superior Court Assignment Judge Yolanda Ciccone testified that she asked Sasso to resign because he had lied to her about the details of an incident at Torpedo's Go-Go Bar in Bound Brook. . . . Ciccone, who is the presiding judge for Vicinage 13, which covers courts in Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren counties, said Sasso was "disingenuous'' with her, and categorized his behavior as "injurous'' to the judiciary. . . . "I realized Judge Sasso was not being truthful to me,'' said Ciccone. . . . She said she gave Sasso the option of either resigning or being removed from the bench. . . . Ciccone said she had discussed the matter with both state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and Judge Philip Carchman, former administrative director of the courts, who approved Ciccone giving Sasso the ultimatum.


Hearing continues for judge accused of causing a ruckus at go-go bar

by Jennifer Golson/The Star-Ledger

11-12-08 -- A former municipal court judge's behavior at a Bound Brook go-go bar was the last straw that prompted the Superior Court's assignment judge to order him to retire, resign or be removed from the bench, that judge testified this morning. . . . Judge Yolanda Ciccone appeared before the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct as the hearing for Richard Sasso continued this morning in West Trenton.


Lifetime Ban on Judicial Service Sought for Judge Allegedly Drunk on the Bench

Maria Vogel-Short, New Jersey Law Journal

11-12-08 -- A prosecutor asked the New Jersey Supreme Court's judicial ethics tribunal on Monday to censure former municipal judge Richard Sasso, and to bar him from the bench, for allegedly being drunk in court, unruly in public and overly harsh to litigants and lawyers. . . . "Sasso abused his office and showed a severe lack of judgment in his actions on the bench and off the bench," Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct counsel Candace Moody said at a disciplinary hearing in New Brunswick. "This office cannot tolerate this behavior and it erodes public confidence." . . . A formal complaint charges Sasso with presiding over court sessions while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, abusing his authority by imposing sanctions on attorneys and litigants for being late or argumentative, acting disorderly in public and imposing discounted fines on underage students. . . . Last January, while an ACJC investigation was pending, Sasso resigned his judgeships in Warren, Bridgewater, Bound Brook and Watchung, citing health problems.



Judge Accused of Drunkenness on the Bench Says He Was Under Medication

Maria Vogel-Short, New Jersey Law Journal

11-10-08 -- Former New Jersey judge Richard Sasso, in defense to ethics charges that he was drunk in court and disrespectful and harsh towards litigants, says that any aberrational behavior was due to his being heavily medicated and that the substantive actions he took were appropriate. . . . Sasso's attorney laid out his explanations in a brief to the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, which was to hear his ethics case Friday. . . . Sasso, a former municipal judge in Warren, Bridgewater, Bound Brook and Watchung, N.J., resigned in January, citing health reasons, two months before the ethics complaint was filed. He is still subject to judicial discipline, however. . . . The seven-count complaint alleges he presided over court sessions while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; abused his authority by imposing hefty fees on litigants and lawyers for being late or arguing with him; imposed illegally discounted fines on underage students; and acted disorderly in a bar. . . . According to the ACJC, Sasso's speech was slurred when he presided over sessions on Dec. 6, 2006, in Bridgewater and on April 17, 2007, in Watchung. . . . But Sasso's attorney, Anthony Vignuolo, says that at the time of those incidents, the judge was taking Vicodin for back and knee injuries from a car accident, anti-inflammatory medicine and medication for diabetes and blood pressure.


Judge Faces Ethics Charges for DWI Antics With Chapstick and Penny

Maria Vogel-Short, New Jersey Law Journal

11-7-08 -- Peter Tourison isn't the first judge to come up for discipline as the result of a drunken driving conviction, but he may be the first to have tried to beat the DWI rap by exploiting the foibles of New Jersey's new breath-testing device. . . . Tourison, 57, who sits in three Cape May County, N.J., towns, was charged with driving while intoxicated on March 27, after he failed field sobriety tests and an Alcotest at the police station. He later pleaded guilty. . . . The DWI itself would have been enough for the state Advisory Committee on Attorney Ethics to bring charges, which it did, but what he did while in custody at the station could stiffen his discipline. . . . Tourison attempted to apply Chapstick to his lips, which delayed the Alcotest. According to protocol for operating the device, nothing can be in or around a driver's mouth for 20 minutes before the test is administered. When the police took the Chapstick away, Tourison produced and used another tube before it, too, was confiscated. . . . Then, when a patrolman turned his back, Tourison placed a penny in his mouth. It's a common ploy, says Herbert Leckie, of DWI Consultants in Lebanon, N.J., who trains lawyers and police on Alcotest operation. While the penny won't affect the test, the presence of an object in a suspect's mouth may show the officer didn't perform a proper oral inspection, thus fouling the testing process.


Municipal court judge loses license after Parsippany DWI

By Peggy Wright • Daily Record

11-5-08 -- Livingston's municipal court judge lost his driver's license for seven months this morning by pleading guilty in Morristown to driving while intoxicated in Parsippany in February. . . . Livingston resident Robert A. Jones, 52, admitted to Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto that he was under the influence of alcohol around midnight on Feb. 16 when his Lexus was stopped for erratic driving on Parsippany Boulevard. Jones, the municipal court judge in the Essex County community of Livingston, had a blood-alcohol content of .16 percent, or double the level at which a motorist is deemed legally intoxicated in New Jersey.


Panel cites municipal judge in DWI case

From Press staff reports Press of Atlantic City

11-3-08 -- The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct has filed a formal complaint against Municipal Court Judge Peter M. Tourison, according to the New Jersey Judiciary Web site. . . . Tourison, who has served as a judge in several Cape May County towns, pleaded guilty in June to driving while intoxicated following his arrest in March in a Wawa parking lot in Lower Township. As part of the plea, the prosecution dismissed a careless-driving charge against him. . . . Tourison was charged with $725 in fines and lost his driver's license for 90 days. . . . On the night of his arrest, Tourison tried to apply Chapstick to his lips and then placed a penny in his mouth before being given the Alcotest, the complaint states.


October  2008

Judiciary Enhances Customer Service by Publicizing Complaints Procedures

For further information contact: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig / 609-292-9580

10-30-08 -- Judge Glenn A. Grant, acting administrative director of the courts, has announced that during October, which is national customer service month, every vicinage will be adding signs and distributing brochures about how court users can report concerns about fair treatment to the appropriate office.

In addition to highlighting this information in each courthouse, the Judiciary will implement training initiatives for court employees to remind them how they should assist court users who have complaints. Further, the Judiciary will disseminate information about complaint procedures to bar associations, agencies and community groups whose members deal frequently with the courts.

“People come to us expecting fairness,” said Judge Grant. “We want to make sure that all who use the courts, including litigants, attorneys, jurors, volunteers, witnesses, job applicants and vendors, feel that they have been treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or membership in any other protected group.”


The Judiciary’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Affirmative Action (AA) policy, which can be found in its entirety at njcourts.com, says in part that, “The Judiciary is committed to treating all employees and court users equally, with dignity and respect.”

Every courthouse has various avenues for reporting concerns about fair treatment. Complaints may be made to: the EEO/AA officer / the ombudsman / the trial court administrator or / the assignment judge

In addition, those wishing to discuss their concerns regarding fair treatment involving court staff may wish to contact the Judiciary’s statewide EEO/AA officer at 609-292-3586 or, if the complaint involves a judge, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct at 609-292-2552.


50 Percent Legal Fee Questionable but Not Forbidden in N.J. Consumer Cases

Mary Pat Gallagher, New Jersey Law Journal

10-28-08 -- The New Jersey Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics has declined to place a proscription on lawyers charging a 50 percent contingency fee in consumer rights cases. . . . The committee found nothing in the Rules of Professional Conduct or the rules of court to specifically prohibit such an arrangement, though it does raise some yellow flags. . . . The fee "would appear to be questionable" under RPC 1.5, which requires that legal fees be reasonable, and might raise concerns under RPC 5.4(a), which prohibits fee sharing with nonlawyers, the panel said in Opinion 715, released on Oct. 17. . . . The opinion addressed a lawyer's inquiry on whether it is permissible to agree with a client to split evenly the net amount recovered, after disbursements, in a consumer protection case, where statutory attorney fees are available.


Judge Approves Settlement of Suit Against Aetna Over Coverage for Eating Disorders

Henry Gottlieb, New Jersey Law Journal

10-23-08 -- A federal judge gave final approval Tuesday to a class action settlement that requires Aetna Insurance Co. to provide about $300,000 in back payments to 119 insureds whose benefits for eating disorders were limited. . . . The company also promised to treat future claims more liberally and make internal reforms to resolve disputes over benefits for eating disorders. . . . U.S. District Judge Faith Hochberg also approved a $350,000 payment to the plaintiffs' class counsel, Nagel Rice in Roseland, N.J. All of the fee comes from Aetna, not out of a percentage of the class members' recovery. . . . "It makes perfect sense to me," Hochberg said after ruling that the settlement in De Vito v. Aetna, 07-418, was fair, reasonable and adequate. . . . The settlement requires the company to treat some claims for anorexia and bulimia as it does claims for biologically based mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. That makes a class of eating-disorder patients eligible for eight months of treatment, compared with 20 outpatient visits per calendar year and 30 days of inpatient benefits.


Hearing set for municipal court judge facing misconduct charges in Central Jersey

By Michael Deak • Staff Writer

10-22-08 -- A hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 10 on judicial misconduct charges brought against Richard Sasso, who formerly served as municipal court judge in Bridgewater, Warren, Bound Brook and Watchung. . . . Sasso was cited March 13 by the state Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, including charges of being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol while on the bench and disorderly conduct at Torpedo's Go-Go Bar in Bound Brook. . . . The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 10, in Room 230 in the New Jersey Law Center, 1 Constitution Square, New Brunswick. . . . Sasso resigned as municipal court judge on Jan. 23. Sasso cited health reasons for the resignation. . . . The complaint alleges that Sasso presided over court sessions on Dec. 6, 2006, in Bridgewater and April 17, 2007, in Warren under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.


Mathesius: A solid jurist too blunt for the bench?

By Dana E. Sullivan

10-17-08 -- All three branches of government in Trenton are about to be put to a most unusual test: Whether to reappoint the most brazenly outspoken judge in New Jersey, a man whose barbs have even targeted some of his bosses - past and present members of the New Jersey Supreme Court. . . . With more than 400 judges on the Superior Court bench, the reappointment of one of them usually is either routine or, if not, just a blip on the judicial screen. . . . Not so with Mercer County Judge Bill Mathesius. And now it's showdown time for his future on the bench as he's up for a new term, though brief, in January. . . . In essence, how will the governor, the high court and the legislature react in the weeks ahead to an issue that perhaps simplistically can be seen as free speech vs. obligatory obedience. . . . It presents a fascinating issue within the generally staid ways of the New Jersey judiciary and the culture of judges not to buck - certainly not to bad-mouth - the powers that be. . . . The juxtapositions are stark. Mathesius is a judge who, even the high court has said, is solid in handling cases. At the same time, though, he has declared in no uncertain terms that in donning black robes, he did not surrender his free speech rights. On the other hand, he came to the court with that reputation in the first place. And his views, often spiced with sarcasm and irreverence, at times have been right on the money.


Judge Not (If You're Practicing Law, Anyhow)

New York Lawyer, By Henry Gottlieb, New Jersey Law Journal

10-10-08 -- The New Jersey Supreme Court in September censured former Trenton Municipal Judge Lawson McElroy for practicing law while sitting as a full-time jurist and banned him from future judicial service. . . . The court adopted the findings and recommendations of its Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, which said in a July 30 presentment that McElroy represented at least three people during his eight years on the Trenton bench and that his conduct on behalf of one of those clients violated rules against discourtesy. . . . Taken altogether, it was "intemperate conduct and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute," the court said in its order in In the Matter of Lawson R. McElroy.


A spate of ethical lapses among judges

By Harvey C. Fisher

10-3-08 -- Although it's been happening piecemeal, there appears to be a run on judges getting zapped for misconduct. Whether what's been coming down reflects an emerging pattern of ethical looseness within judicial ranks or simply a happenchance cluster of missteps by some jurists is anyone's guess - at least for now. . . . But New Jersey's once nearly pristine bench suddenly is showing a good number of breaches. . . . Coincidence or not, within just the past three months, the New Jersey Supreme Court has been delivering body blows to judges who've played fast and loose with the rules of conduct. . . . Last week two more judges were disciplined by the high court, another was zapped the week before and several others since June were reprimanded or got into trouble since June for actions far from being beyond reproach. . . . That includes, for example, taunting lawyers with curse words, dismissing a friend's traffic ticket without a record of the decision showing up in open court, or doing a form of no-no double duty - sitting on the bench full-time while handling cases for law clients on the side. . . . The latest involved Superior Court Judge F. Michael Giles and former Trenton municipal Judge Lawson R. McElroy. . . . The high court and its Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC) may well have given Giles somewhat of a break by issuing the veteran Essex County jurist a public reprimand. His offense from the bench? Using the F-word angrily against lawyers appearing before him.


High court censures judge for violating judicial ethics

By Linda Stein, Times Of Trenton

10-2-08 -- The state Supreme Court censured a retired Trenton Municipal Court judge for his behavior and ordered that he never be appointed to judicial office again. . . . Lawson McElroy, who retired in April, had been a Municipal Court judge since he was appointed to the bench by Mayor Douglas Palmer in July 2000. . . . Earlier this year allegations surfaced that McElroy had practiced law while he was a full-time judge and that he made "disrespectful and insulting" remarks to the court clerk. . . . In an opinion dated Monday, the court held that McElroy violated the canons of judicial ethics, including rules that he should be "patient and dignified" and that he is not allowed to work as an attorney while serving as a judge. . . . The court also found that McElroy had engaged in "intemperate conduct and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice." . . . In July, the court Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct recommended that McElroy be disciplined for his behavior.


September  2008

NEW JERSEY  

N.J. Supreme Court Imposes Restrictions on Job-Seeking Judges

Henry Gottlieb, New Jersey Law Journal

9-29-08 -- The New Jersey Supreme Court on Wednesday effectively banned discussions between judges seeking retirement jobs and lawyers appearing before them. . . . Judges may not talk about jobs with parties or attorneys in a matter in which the judge is participating "personally and substantially," Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote for the unanimous Court in Denike v. Cupo, A-61. . . . And if a lawyer brings up the subject, "judges should put a halt to the conversation at once, rebuff any offer, and disclose what occurred on the record," the court said. . . . The justices found that former Bergen County Superior Court Judge Gerald Escala committed the appearance of impropriety when he talked about a job offer with a Hackensack, N.J., lawyer while winding up a commercial dispute before him in 2006. . . . There was no evidence that the offer -- which Escala accepted two days after the case ended -- led to rulings in the firm's favor. But the court found that the relationship cast doubt on the integrity of the judicial process, and so vacated Escala's judgment and ordered a retrial.



Judge chided for seeking job from lawyers in trial

By Kate Coscarelli, Star-Ledger Staff

9-25-08 -- Judges must be diligent to make sure there is no appearance of impropriety when they are looking for a new job while still on the bench, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a unanimous decision. . . . The ruling centers on former state Superior Court Judge Gerald Escala, who was facing the mandatory retirement age of 70 and began talking about possible employment with lawyers who were appearing before him on a business dispute. . . . "The judiciary derives its authority from the state consitution but earns the public's confidence through acts of unquestioned integrity," wrote Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. "When that trust is shaken -- even slightly -- our system of justice falters." . . . Escala's conduct created an appearance of impropriety and "fell short of the high standards demanded of judges and fellow members of the legal profession and had the capacity to erode the public's trust," wrote Rabner.


NEW JERSEY  

New Jersey judge to leave bench for trench

The Associated Press

9-23-08 -- A judge in Atlantic County is going from the bench to the trench. . . . Christopher Brown is an attorney and municipal court judge in Galloway Township and a veteran of the Persian Gulf War. . . . Brown recently received a notice telling him to prepare for deployment. The 44-year-old thought it was a mix-up because he'd met his eight-year military obligation. But he was never discharged and is therefore classified as a reservist. . . . That means he's eligible for reactivation.


Court: No badmouthing rivals on the boardwalk

Shouted accusations aren't protected speech

By Kate Coscarelli, Star-Ledger Staff

9-23-08 -- Boardwalk barkers can say a lot of things to attract people to play their games, but they cannot say their competitors are no good, the state's highest court says. . . . In a unanimous decision yesterday, the New Jersey Supreme Court found the owner of a boardwalk game in Wildwood can sue for defamation after a competitor used the public address system to call him a cheat. . . . The court found the speech did not touch on matters of public concern and was not entitled to extra protection granted to some kinds of commercial speech. . . . "Balancing the right to speak freely and the right to be secure in one's good name -- determining how much protection should be given to speech at the expense of reputation -- is at the heart of this case," Justice Barry Albin wrote for the court.


Jersey is to corruption as Hershey is to chocolate

By Alfred Doblin, Record Editorial Columnist

9-22-08 -- IF YOU WANT to study chocolate, go to Hershey, Pa. If you want to study corruption, come to New Jersey. Better still, go to Newark. . . . Rutgers University, that bastion of ethical public spending — particularly when it comes to football — has opened an Institute on Corruption Studies in Newark. . . . The institute's director told The Record, "In developing countries, bribes are often required to obtain simple health care, gain access to schools or conduct daily business." He also said, "Corrupt officials also steer public money toward friends or their own companies." You think? . . . The new institute will work with various international agencies, organizations and nations to improve the mechanics of governing and raise the ethical bar. Just think about it. An institute based in Newark, N.J., is going to export ethics to developing nations.


Judge removes accused from BPU 'whistleblower's' lawsuit

by Dunstan McNichol/The Star-Ledger

9-22-08 -- A Board of Public Utilities fiscal officer seeking damages in a whistleblower lawsuit has no case against the head of the clean energy program he criticized, a judge ruled this morning. . . . Mercer County Superior Court Judge Andrew Smithson removed Michael Winka, head of the BPU's Office of Clean Energy from the lawsuit filed by Joseph Potena, the BPU's chief fiscal officer. . . . Smithson also rejected Potena's claims his reputation had been damaged by BPU officials. And he left open the prospect he may excuse BPU president Jeanne Fox and her top lieutenant, Lance Miller, from the lawsuit after further deliberation. . . . Potena is seeking damages from the BPU and its top officers over allegations he was ostracized and his job duties were diminished in retaliation for his complaints of mismanagement and cronyism in the Clean Energy subsidy program.


State suit puts Abbott system in the balance

By John Mooney, Star-Ledger Staff

9-22-08 -- The names atop New Jersey Supreme Court Docket No. 42170 have become synonymous with the controversial debate over the funding of public education that has raged in New Jersey for 30 years. . . . Raymond Arthur Abbott was a poor child from Camden. Fred G. Burke was a state education commissioner. And when advocates sued, their names were immortalized in a series of Abbott vs. Burke court rulings that sought to close the gap between the state's richest and poorest schools. . . . Today may be the day the names start to fade into obscurity. . . . The Corzine administration and lawyers for children in some of New Jersey's neediest schools will square off before the court to argue whether the epic rulings should remain intact. . . . Gov. Jon Corzine has asked the court to essentially remove Abbott from the state's laws and mandates, including court-ordered requirements in the 31 so-called Abbott districts for preschool, instructional reforms and extra services such as counselors and tutoring.


Top court to weigh roadside searches

by Kate Coscarelli/The Star-Ledger

9-21-08 -- Camden police pulled over Charles Fuller for driving without a seatbelt a few years ago. When his driver's license raised suspicions, police ran his name through the computer and arrested him. Officers searched the car and turned up a loaded handgun, drugs and a 28-inch sword. . . . Juan Pena-Flores and Fausto Parades were driving through Cranford and cut off traffic at a light, nearly causing an accident. That fall day in 2005, police pulled over the car down the road, got a whiff of marijuana and searched the SUV. They found a 9 mm gun under a child's car seat and nearly 150 bags of pot. . . . In both cases, officers searched the cars without a warrant -- and state appeals judges found the searches were improper. . . . Tomorrow, the cases, viewed by state criminal lawyers as among the most significant in recent years, take center stage at the New Jersey Supreme Court in Trenton. The justices are set to hear arguments over when police should be allowed to conduct a roadside search without a warrant.


Ex-Parsippany attorney awaits sentencing

Former planning board lawyer admitted illegally aiding Union developer

By Rob Jennings • Daily Record

9-20-08 -- Former Parsippany planning board attorney John Montefusco Sr. will be sentenced in January on his guilty plea last winter to illegally aiding a prominent developer, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said Friday. . . . The builder -- Edward J. Mosberg, 82, of Union -- was indicted Thursday by a grand jury in Newark for allegedly making bribes and other payments to Montefusco. . . . Montefusco was fired by the planning board after his guilty plea Feb. 13 in federal court to a single count of mail fraud. . . . He admitted in court to aiding a local builder -- Mosberg's name was not disclosed by authorities prior to his indictment -- in exchange for discounted real estate buys and other benefits for himself and family members. . . . Montefusco is due before U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson in Trenton on Jan. 5 at 10 a.m., said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie's office.


With corruption, it's "zero tolerance" or bust

Posted by Thurman Hart

9-15-08 -- It really should be so basic that I need not state it: Public corruption is not justifiable, under any circumstances. But this is New Jersey and such statements have long been a laughingstock. So Bergen County Freeholder David Ganz, I suppose, can be forgiven for bending over backwards to defend the now-indicted Bergen County Democrat Chair Joe Ferriero. Okay, "forgiven" isn't the right word. I can understand why he thinks he can spout such nonsense, but it isn't forgivable. . . . It's understandable because things have been unravelling slowly for David Ganz for some time. He lost his job as mayor of Fair Lawn due to, in no small part, his part in the boondoggle of the Fair Lawn Recreation Center. Inexplicably, the former mayor chose to finance through the Bergen County Improvement Agency and trumpet the news as a financial success. He had to be dragged into court to release the emails that he mingled with his legal business on his personal computer.


CourtSmart is coming

By Kris W. Scibiorski

9-12-08 -- Music fans tossed their cassettes along with acid-washed jeans and AquaNet hairspray in the early 1990s. Now, the New Jersey judiciary is joining the trend, saying farewell to analog tapes and hello to digital recordings of court proceedings. It's a project that could ultimately cost $14 million and in three years or so, be present in all the state's courtrooms. . . . So far, Family Division courtrooms in Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Somerset and Union courts have installed the much-discussed CourtSmart system. . . . Word to the wise: In a CourtSmart courtroom you never are truly alone, at least between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., as the microphones are always on and conversations are being recorded.


New Jersey's growth industry, corruption

By Harvey C. Fisher, NJ Lawyer

9-12-08 -- The question begs asking: Why does New Jersey have so much corruption? Is it because the state simply is more successful in nailing those on the take and publicizing it? Or is there something in the drinking water? . . . Whatever it is, last week saw New Jersey taking yet another giant step toward adding new potential inductees into the state's fast-filling Hall of Shame. . . . And the news centered around two political heavyweights - former state Send. Wayne R. Bryant and Bergen County Chairman Joseph A. Ferriero - who just also happen to have day jobs as heavy-hitting lawyers with prominent firms. . . . In fact, whether by chance or otherwise, a number of powerful governmental officials, taken down for corrupt practices, also have been successful lawyers, including, for example, former state Senate President John A. Lynch and former Essex County Executive James W. Treffinger. . . . The latest sweepstakes for involuntary entry into the Hall of Shame easily made the front pages of many of the state's newspapers last week. . . . On Monday, jury selection began for the trial - expected to take up to eight weeks unless a plea deal is cut - on federal charges that Bryant used his clout as chairman of the upper house budget committee to obtain no-show or little-show government jobs that would balloon his public pension several fold. A lawyer since 1972, Bryant is a partner at Zeller & Bryant in Cherry Hill. . . . The same day jury selection began in the Bryant case came the news that Lynch, the one-time Senate president and former New Brunswick mayor, is seeking early release from his 39-month prison sentence for taking thousands in kickbacks. At one time he was one of the most powerful Democrats in New Jersey, with enough clout to shepherd a supporter into the governorship.


 

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U.S. Accuses 2 in Bergen of Corruption

By The Associated Press

9-9-08 -- The influential chairman of the Bergen County Democratic Organization and a party lawyer have been indicted on federal corruption charges. . . . . United States Attorney Christopher J. Christie announced the indictments of the party chairman, Joseph A. Ferriero, and the lawyer, Dennis Oury, on Tuesday. . . . . The eight-count indictment charges them with conspiring to defraud the Borough of Bergenfield and using the mail to further their scheme. . . . . The investigation focused on their dealings as partners in a firm, Government Grants Consulting, that did business with a number of local governments in northern New Jersey. . . . . The indictment charges that the two men conspired to conceal Mr. Oury’s interest in the grant-writing firm from officials in Bergenfield, which employed Mr. Oury as borough attorney. His dual role posed a conflict of interest, prosecutors contend.

Click here to read Bergen County Chairman Joseph Ferriero's indictment.


New Jersey Courts Celebrate 60 Years

For further information contact: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig / 609-292-9580

9-8-08 -- Gov. Jon S. Corzine will join Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, the associate justices of the Supreme Court and other distinguished guests at a ceremony marking the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the modern Judiciary under the 1947 constitution.

The event will be held today in the Supreme Court Courtroom, nearly 60 years to the day from the first Supreme Court session held under the new constitution. The Supreme Court held its first session under the 1947 constitution on Sept. 15, 1948.

The ceremony also will feature remarks by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II, grandson of Chief Justice Arthur T. Vanderbilt, the first chief justice under the 1947 constitution; state Sen. Leonard Lance, whose father Wesley L. Lance, a former state Senate president was a leading figure in the development in the constitution; and retired Associate Justice James H. Coleman Jr., who was named to the Superior Court in 1973, elevated to the appellate division in 1981 and then nominated to the Supreme Court in 1994. State representatives from both houses will present resolutions marking this important anniversary.

The 1947 constitution consolidated 17 courts into five, abolishing overlapping and conflicting jurisdictions and revising an awkward procedure of multiple appeals. Judges were granted tenure after an initial term, and a retirement age of 70 was established.

The 1947 constitution also gave the Supreme Court sole authority over the administration of the state’s courts, admission to the practice of law, and attorney discipline. It laid out the appellate process, the prerequisites for becoming a judge, and the position of administrative director of the courts.

The Superior Court, comprising the appellate, law and chancery divisions also was created, superseding the 9-member Supreme Court, 11-member Court of Chancery and 14 Circuit Court judges.

Under the previous constitution, ratified in 1844, the Court of Errors and Appeals was the highest court in the state. The name of the court was derived from its function of hearing appeals and correcting previous courts’ errors in judgment. The justices of that court also presided over the lower courts. Each court had its own rules and procedures, and the jurisdictions were ambiguous and often overlapped, and litigants often were required to have their disputes resolved in more than one court. As New Jersey’s population grew and the primarily agrarian society become more industrialized, the legal system no longer met the needs of the citizens and businesses it served.

As a result of the new constitution, the courts eliminated backlogs and dramatically reduced the time to disposition in every court. Annual statistical reports submitted by Willard G. Woelper, the first administrative director of the courts, reveal a successful turnaround for the New Jersey court system, which went from being among the worst state courts systems in the nation, to a national leader in jurisprudence and court management.

Additional information on the history of the modern Judiciary has been
added to the Judiciary Web site at njcourtsonline.com.


"Sickened" Local Judge Reversed in Spat Between Local Ex-Law Partners

Judge Who Scoffed at Dispute Between Former Law Partners Is Reversed

New York Lawyer, By Mary Pat Gallagher, New Jersey Law Journal

9-8-08 -- A trial judge had an obligation to hold a plenary hearing on disputed issues in a suit between two former law firm partners, even if he thought the matter petty and unworthy of the lawyers involved, an appeals court ruled on Tuesday. . . . The panel reversed Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Alexander Lehrer, who decided motions to enforce litigants' rights based on conflicting certifications, after calling the dispute "the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen" and questioning whether the amount at issue justified the cost of a hearing. . . . Appellate Division Judges Edwin Stern and Christine Miniman said that although they had "great respect for [Lehrer's] belief that the litigation might be more costly than the amount in dispute . . . , the court has an obligation to decide the dispute when one exists." . . . The case, Goldman v. Rubin, A-0297-07, arose from the dissolution of Hayt, Hayt & Landau more than five years ago. Russell Goldman and Martin Rubin were partners at the Eatontown collections firm for more than 10 years. They were the only equity partners when Goldman left around 2003. They were also co-owners of First National Acceptance Co., or FNAC, which bought up delinquent consumer accounts for collection.


You don't need to be a lawyer to run for office

The Daily Journal

9-5-08 -- In recent days, letters to the editor written by partisan supporters of my opponent have questioned my qualifications in running for the office of the surrogate. . . . One of the writers, an attorney himself, suggests that one should be a lawyer to best manage the Surrogate's Office. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The overwhelming majority of New Jersey's surrogates are not attorneys. Even in Cumberland County, the Surrogate's Office has been led by non-attorneys. Cumberland County's surrogates in the past, such as John Gittone and Hugo Feneli, have given exemplary service without a law degree. . . . By logical extension of the writers' opinion, the county clerk, state legislators, City Council members, mayors and almost all elected positions would need to be filled by lawyers because they make laws, interpret laws or enforce laws. I don't think the American people or the voters of our county share this elitist view of a government full of only attorneys. In fact, the Surrogate's Office has run fine up until 2003 without having a lawyer head the office. Now it's election time, and my opponents and their partisan supporters through a letter writing campaign say "ONLY LAWYERS NEED APPLY." Thank God for the common sense of the voters for rejecting such a proposition in the past, as I'm sure they will in this election.


Judge Spooked by Sex Offender's Donning of Sunglasses Is Dressed Down on Appeal

Use of black glasses in courtrooms is 'universally considered' to be a threatening gesture, says lower court judge

Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal

9-4-08 -- A New Jersey judge's apparent obsession with a sex offender's wearing of sunglasses in court is ground for a new hearing on whether his involuntary civil commitment should continue, a state appellate court ruled on Wednesday. . . . The Essex County judge's repeated insistence that the man remove his glasses despite his and a doctor's assertions that they were a medical necessity puts her fairness into question, the panel said in In re Civil Commitment of S.B.M., A-2384-07. . . . S.B.M., who is mentally retarded and an alcoholic and has a history of violent sex crimes, has been involuntarily confined since 2003, subject to annual review under the Sexually Violent Predator Act, N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 et seq. . . . At his last hearing, in December 2007, a forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Dean Michael DeCrisce, was testifying about S.B.M.'s mental condition when Superior Court Judge Serena Perretti interrupted: "Doctor, is there any reason why [he has to] wear those black glasses?"


One of NJ's Most Powerful Corrupters

David E. Johnson, Jr.

New Jersey's Corrupt
Attorney Grievance System

A Full Investigation by the FBI is a necessity!!!

 The corruption and fraud in

the New Jersey Judiciary including its

Office of Attorney Ethics,

Disciplinary Review Board

& Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct

is out of control.


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"Ethics Essentials: A Primer for New Judges on Conflicts, Outside Activities, and Other Potential Pitfalls." The Committee on Codes of Conduct of the Judicial Conference of the United States has issued this very interesting document.


NEW JERSEY BARTENDER

Information on New Jersey’s Attorney Disciplinary System

Did you know that only about 5% of grievances filed against lawyers with the New Jersey attorney discipline system are made public?  The remaining 95% of ethics grievances remain secret forever.  They are dismissed, declined or diverted, behind closed doors, by the lawyers who run the system.  Can we trust a lawyer-run government agency to hold other lawyers accountable?

 

 


"Frankly
, I have had more than enough of judicial opinions that bear no relationship whatsoever

 to the cases that have been filed and argued before the judges. 

I am talking about judicial opinions that falsify the facts of the cases that have been argued,

judicial opinions that make disingenuous use or omission of material authorities,

judicial opinions that cover up these things with no-publication and no-citation rules." 
M. Freedman, Professor of Law and Distinguished Legal Scholar, Speech to The Seventh Annual Judicial Conference of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (May 24, 1989), reprinted in 128 F. R. D. 409, 439 (1989).  According to Prof. Freedman, immediately after his speech, a judge sitting next to him said "You don't know the half of it!"
 

 

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