Judges and Official Misconduct (Part 1)

by | Oct 13, 2017 | Blog, Criminal Law, Judge and Jury, Monmouth County, Ocean County

criminal casesOn September 11, 2017, a three-judge appellate panel decided the case of State v. Carlia Brady. The principle issue in the case is whether a Superior Court judge be found guilty of criminal official misconduct based on a failure to enforce an arrest warrant for her boyfriend when she neglected to notify police that the boyfriend was at her home. This is a crucial issue in the former Middlesex County judge’s case. If the second-degree official misconduct charge can go before a jury, she will risk mandatory incarceration.

The State argues that a judge has a non-discretionary duty, inherent in her office, to enforce an arrest warrant, and, because a judge is always “on duty,” defendant was criminally culpable for not notifying police when Prontnicki was either at, or on his way to, her home. It further argues defendant’s own statements make clear she was aware of this duty.

This second point lacks sufficient merit to warrant discussion. While defendant told friends it was her duty as a judge to notify police about Prontnicki’s whereabouts, those statements followed her interaction with members of the Woodbridge Police Department, who told her that was her judicial “duty.” Obviously, defendant’s subjective belief that a duty exists, if none exists at law, cannot support an essential element of the crime of official misconduct.

The State cites various decisions to support the proposition that defendant refrained from performing an official duty inherent in her office; however, none of them are persuasive under the facts of this case. For example, Deegan predates enactment of our Criminal Code, and so does not address the very precise language of the official misconduct statute Our opinion in Deegan supports the proposition that the duties of a public office need not be expressed in any statute, and “the power to act imports a duty to act when the public interests suggest to the public officials that something should be done.” However, in Deegan, the defendants’ duties, although not expressed in a statute, were the very duties of the position, i.e., approving the award of disability pensions to only qualified candidates. Defendants’ actions or omissions involved the only essential tasks they were empowered to perform.