Saturday, December 06, 2008

NJ Superior Court Judge Wilbur Mathesius denied re-appointment

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Wilbur {"Bill") Mathesius has been denied reappointment by Governor Jon Corzine, after "a close examination of his record."

Judge Mathesius presided over the famous murder trial of Jonathan Nyce.

The Trenton Times included the following text in a story about the matter:

In December 2006, the court suspended Mathesius without pay for a month, which cost him nearly $12,000, after its advisory panel found that the judge had "showed poor judgment, impulsiveness and lack of self-control and a tendency to act without sufficient regard for the propriety and consequences of his actions."

Six months later, Mathesius wrote a sarcastic rebuttal to the court's action in New Jersey Lawyer's newsletter.

In the article, he parodied now-retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Deborah Poritz, painting a satirical picture of her wardrobe and suggesting she took management tips from Korean dictator Kim Jong II.

At the time, several veteran attorneys observed that Mathesius had buried his career with the piece.

The Times piece included commentary:

"That's disappointing," said lawyer Michael J. Herbert, who handles civil cases. "He's a very highly respected judge and a lawyer. I've known him for 35 years. He's known for his candor which we really need on the court.

"I'm surprised. Every lawyer I've ever talked to that appeared before him thought he did an outstanding job," he said. "He's bright, candid and decisive."

Prominent Trenton criminal defense lawyer Robin Lord said, "I think it's a mistake for him not to be reappointed. There is a dearth of intelligent and caring judges on the bench to begin with. And to remove one of them for political reasons is a significant mistake."
[IPBiz notes that Lord represented Jonathan Nyce.]

A followup article in the Times gave comments by Judge Mathesisus:

Mathesius, who last week failed to win reappointment to a final term, had scathing words for Gov. Jon Corzine and his judicial colleagues.

"No matter how much money you have, you can't buy class," Mathesius said of Corzine, the state's wealthy leader.

Of his judicial superiors, Mathesius maintained once again that he was punished not for any impropriety but for exercising his right to free speech.

"I'll be happy at the end of my term to receive a little wrapped box of my First Amendment rights back," he said.

He cast his ouster in a political light, noting he is "irrevocably white, irrevocably male and irrevocably Republican."

Of a pending case:

Meanwhile, the removal of Mathesius from the bench will bring to a screeching halt a thorny civil case that he had been handling for two years.

Last week Mathesius recused himself from the complex case, Imo Industries Inc. vs. Transamerica, which he likened to "Chinese mathematics."

Imo had alleged its former parent failed to live up to its obligations to insure the company for litigation arising from asbestos cases.

"That case was satisfying in a number of areas, including the complexity, the great attorneys I had before me, the issues. And it was stimulating," Mathesius said.

He estimated both sides had spent about $500,000 on expert witnesses and attorney fees that will now be wasted because the testi mony will have to be repeated when a new judge takes over.


What he won't miss is, "The immense overburdened process that is overseen by bean counters. What I don't like is when that process interferes with justice, as corny as that sounds."


Asked about those who said he did not have a "judicial temperament," Mathesius retorted that they were lawyers whom he'd ruled against. "People don't like it if you tell the truth to them," he said. "It concerns and upsets them."


Mathesius will likely keep busy after leaving the bench whether he practices law or takes another role in public service.

"Seventy is the new 45," he said.

***Discussion of Mathesius matter on, referencing Mathesius text-->

I subsisted on a Zen macrobiotic vegetarian diet, an occasional leaf or two of organic radicchio and Evian water, foraging as best I could for native fruits and nuts. The occasional tuna sushi was like gold. I report herewith the product of that reflection...

For those of UofChicago Law Class of '93, the work "radicchio" may conjure up memories of Alan Sykes.


New Jersey Judge Denies Motion For Bench Trial On Bad Faith Claim


The article by Judge Mathesius that provoked the uproar seems to have vanished from the internet, likely another Sikahema.

A post at (Bob Ingle ) has a brief excerpt:

Take boat-rocker extraordinaire Superior Court Judge Bill Mathesius, a former prosecutor who was unafraid to speak his mind using colorful language and biting wit. Mathesius wrote a scathing article about former Chief Justice Deborah Poritz, a political insider who never sat on a bench that wasn't in a park until Gov. Christie Whitman appointed her to the top court's top job. He described Poritz like this:

"The Chief swept in, clad in diaphamous tulle and a high-fashion shahtoosh. Her diamante' Harlequin glasses provided interesting accent. The picture collectively brought to mind a hint of mature Andrea Dworkin with a touch of Dick Cheney." He went on to suggest she took management tips from Kim Jong II, the North Korean dictator.

**See also Bill Mathesius. Again. Always. :

In “Reflections,” which appeared in New Jersey Lawyer, Mathesius thumbed his nose at his “fatwa lite” punishment, saying he was guilty of a “crime of opinion.” He also jabbed at Poritz, comparing her to a “mature Andrea Dworkin with a touch of Dick Cheney.”

“What made that into my proudest moment was the 47 letters I got from judges, who were unable to say what I said, and appreciated that I said it,” Mathesius said of his opus. “They could not have said it themselves under threat of transfer to Cape May.”

Indeed, judges sent him e-mails and some sidled up to him at judicial meetings to praise him “in hushed tones.”

“I was in a position to say things most of the judges could not say,” he said.

**Separately, see page 161 of "The Soprano State" by Bob Ingle and Sandy McClure.


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