Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Judge's DWI Leads To Censure

The New Jersey Supreme Court censured a municipal court judge as a result of a drunk driving incident. Details of the underlying incident from a report last December in the Cape May County Herald:

A local municipal court judge charged with drunk driving must face a disciplinary panel to find out his fate.

On Dec. 2, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct announced it will hold a formal hearing in In the matter of Municipal Court Judge Peter M. Tourison at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 10, in Room 230, at the New Jersey Law Center, 1 Constitution Square, New Brunswick.

A formal complaint was filed in this matter by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct on Oct. 27.

The complaint details the following:

On June 25 Judge Peter Tourison, who presided over the municipal courts in Cape May, Stone Harbor and Middle Township, pled guilty to a charge of DWI before Judge David Krell in the Penns Grove Municipal Court.

Tourison lost his driver’s license for 90 days and was charged over $700 in fines and surcharges.

The incident occurred on March 27 when Tourison was observed driving his BMW in an erratic fashion before striking another vehicle in the North Cape May Wawa parking lot.

Tourison failed a field sobriety test and was taken to Lower Township Police Department.

While being processed, Tourison repeatedly applied lip balm and held a penny in his mouth in an effort to fool a blood alcohol content (BAC) test, according to the complaint. His test revealed a BAC of .08, the legal limit in New Jersey.

In its complaint, the Ethics Committee alleges Tourison violated three canons of the state judicial code of conduct:

• Canon 1, which requires judges to observe high standards of conduct
• Canon 2A, which requires judges to respect and comply with the law
• Canon 5A(2), which requires judges to conduct all of their extra-judicial activities so that they do not demean the judicial office

Tourison’s actions also broke court rules that constituted misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, the complaint stated.

Tourison's filed an answer to the complaint on Dec. 2.

The court's order does not specify the extent to which the conduct involving the lip balm and penny impacted on the decision.The presentment filed by the Advisory Committe on Judicial Conduct contended that the conduct was an aggravating factor. (Mike Frisch)

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