Monday, August 1, 2011

Close Call

The New Jersey Supreme Court has censured a superior court judge for presiding over a matter in which a close friend's credibility was an issue:

The disciplinary proceedings against respondent began with the filing of grievances with the Advisory Committee in July 2008 by Alan P. Rosenfielde, a party to a civil action captioned Kaye v. Rosenfielde, over which respondent presided between February 2005 and October 2006. The litigation was a business dispute involving issues that arose from Rosenfielde's employment with and eventual termination from a business based in Atlantic City. Rosenfielde contended that his termination was due to his recommendation that his employer end its business relationship with an insurance broker named Frank Siracusa, whom Rosenfielde alleged had engaged in improper and questionable business practices. Siracusa was a central witness to Rosenfielde’s counterclaim. Respondent had a longstanding business, social, political, and personal relationship with Siracusa, but informed the parties to the Kaye litigation several times that notwithstanding his relationship with Siracusa, he was not uncomfortable presiding over the case and evaluating Siracusa's credibility if Siracusa were to appear as a witness.

In October 2006, respondent denied a motion by Rosenfielde that he recuse himself from the case because of his relationship with Siracusa, but respondent did recuse himself on his own motion for different reasons, citing his "inappropriate reaction" to Rosenfielde's counsel at a previous hearing and his "significant concerns" regarding how the case had been handled.

The court did not find that the judge testified falsely in a proceeding:

As difficult and exceedingly close a decision as it is to make, on the record before the Court, it cannot be said that it has been clearly and convincingly established that respondent deliberately misled the Senate Judiciary Committee as was charged in Count II of the formal complaint and found in the presentment. Much of the difficulty in the decision is attributable to respondent, who was extremely lax in his preparation for his reappointment hearing and who failed to alert the Senate Committee to the errors in his testimony once he realized them.

(Mike Frisch)

Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Close Call :


Post a comment