Friday, November 3, 2017
The New Jersey Supreme Court imposed a six-month suspension and barred the attorney from serving as a municipal prosecutor for five years.
The case involves a municipal prosecutor's handling of a speeding ticket issued to an employee of her private business, as described in the report of the Disciplinary Review Board
During the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s investigation, the OAE investigation, and the ethics hearing, respondent provided multiple, inconsistent narratives explaining her conduct in dismissing Spork’s ticket...
The crux of respondent’s misconduct in this case is straightforward -- she improperly dismissed Spork’s ticket, and did so using calculated misrepresentations to Judge Novak, without the blessing of the Frenchtown Police Department (which permission would still beg impropriety), all while occupying a public position from which she should have recused herself, given her employer-employee relationship with Spork. She committed this misconduct without hesitation or afterthought, since, for her, the practice of the preferential dismissal of citations was routine.
Respondent’s explanation of her dismissal of Spork’s ticket has been inconsistent and evolving, depending on the identity of her audience and the stage of the relevant proceeding against her. In her March 30, 2012 e-mail, sent directly to the Hunterdon County Prosecutor, respondent claimed that "Officer Johnson agreed to dismiss [Spork’s] ticket." She alleged that Chief Kurylka’s investigation into the Spork dismissal was due to bad blood between the two, rather than her misconduct. She characterized the investigation as "harassment," and stated that "I know it is inappropriate to dismiss tickets . . . but all prosecutors do it when the officers ask." She also admitted to the Hunterdon County Prosecutor that "yes, I knew [Spork], but then again, this is a small county and I know many of the defendants who appear in my court." Notably, respondent made no mention of the fact that Spork was her employee, that he was driving a Kocsis Farms truck while stopped, that she had misrepresented to Judge Novak that there were "discovery problems," or that respondent and Spork had previously spoken, in her home, about his speeding ticket.
We conclude that respondent was most truthful regarding the dismissal of Spork’s ticket during her testimony at the ethics hearing. There, while under oath, respondent admitted that Spork’s ticket was dismissed simply because she could dismiss it for him, and that she routinely engaged in the preferential dismissal of cases.
The DRB had proposed a permanent ban on service as a municipal prosecutor. (Mike Frisch)