Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Concerning the New Jersey Judicial Canons

Further to the IPBiz post Gurbir S. Grewal's bad day in "State v. Lawrence" , sometimes there are bad consequences to Municipal Judges and/or municipal prosecutors who do not obey the law.

New Jersey Judicial Canon 2A requires that a judge should respect and comply with the law and Canon 3A(1) requires that a judge should be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in it.

The case In re Samay, 166 N.J. 25, 764 A.2d 398 (N.J. 2001) is of interest. The "overview" presented in LEXIS states:

Respondent [Samay] committed three acts subjecting him to removal as a municipal court judge. He violated N.J. Ct. R. Canon 1, 2A, 2B, and N.J. Ct. R. 2:15-8(a)(6), by purposefully and intentionally using judicial initials, thus representing himself as a judge, in a private letter to his son's school for his own person gain. He violated N.J. Ct. R. Canon 1, 2A, 2B, 3C, and 3C(1), and N.J. Ct. R. 2:15-8(a)(6), by failing to disqualify himself from sitting in two matters. In the first matter, he issued a search and arrest warrant and presided over an arraignment so that he could benefit a long-term municipal government colleague. In the second matter, motivated by revenge, he had his son's gym teacher arrested and then arraigned before him. Respondent minimized his misconduct and demonstrated that he had no compunction about being less than credible in support of his position, further showing that he lacked the honor and integrity demanded of a judge. Thus, the court found, beyond a reasonable doubt, cause for removal based on respondent's unfitness for judicial office. It therefore ordered him removed as a municipal court judge.

In a peculiar way, the "judicial initials" issue was sort of an inappropriate advertising, trademark issue. Samay may have been a judge at the time, but he should not advertise that for personal benefit. Does signing off as a judge in a personal matter convey a benefit beyond that for an average person? Intimidation? What?

Respondent sent copies of that letter to Angela Gibson, the Headmaster at Collegiate School, and to other school officials. The aspect of respondent's letter that has disciplinary significance is the fact that respondent signed the letter as an attorney ("Esq.") and as a judge ("JMC"). Respondent testified that he used the "JMC" initials only to "impress" upon Lazor that respondent "had enough intelligence" to "make [his] own decisions" and "take care of [his] financial problems." Thus, respondent acknowledged using the "JMC" initials intentionally. Respondent also acknowledged knowing that utilization of the initials in a non-judicial, personal letter was "[w]holly inappropriate." We find respondent's alleged motive for using the initials "JMC" totally lacking in credibility. Cf. State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 470-75, 724 A.2d 234 (1999)  (discussing appellate review of witness credibility determinations).


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