September 14, 2009
"I'm A Street Guy" Or Save The Raspberries
The New Jersey Supreme Court imposed a public reprimand based on a presentment of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct that set forth the misconduct of a municipal court judge handling an video arraignment for a series of non-moving traffic violations. The defendant apparently had an attitude, and attempted to "stare down" the judge after being accused of previously failing to appear, which the defendant denied. According to the judge, the defendant made a "raspberry" sound and "gestured to [the judge] with the middle finger touching his mouth." The defendant also directed a profanity to the judge.
The judge called the defendant back to the video camera and said (in part): "...you're not a street guy...but I'm a street guy. ...I didn't get offended when you gave me the old fist up in the air. That's okay. I didn't really care about that. But when you give me raspberries walking out and you give me some kind of disrespect like that, I'm just telling you that's contempt in the face of the court. You're going to jail. You're going to stay there for 30 days."
When the defendant tried to discuss the issue, the judge raised the stakes to 45 days, then 60 days and finally 180 days.
The presentment found that the exchanges were undignified and sarcastic and that the "sentencing of [the defendant] more closely resembled an auction than a judicial proceeding..." (Mike Frisch)
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