Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The New Jersey Supreme Court has held that a part-time municipal court judge is not subject to discipline for his law partner's political contributions from the law firm's joint business account. The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct ("ACJC") had recommended that the judge be publicly admonished notwithstanding the fact that he was not aware of the contributions at issue.
The court here found that there was not clear and convincing evidence of a violation and referred the matter to the Professional Responsibility Rules Committee and the Advisory Committee on Extrajudicial Activity to develop rules to implement this decision:
Among other things, the Committees should recommend changes to the [Rules of Professional Conduct] to ensure compliance by part-time municipal court judges as well as other lawyers in thier respective law firms so that those attorneys who practice with part-time municipal court judges are likewise barred from making political contributions from a firm's business accounts. The court agrees with the ACJC's First Amendment analysis. First Amendment rights of lawyers who practice with part-time municipal court judges are plainly not being limited because those lawyers may continue to make political contributions from personal funds.