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Ex-municipal court judge publicly censured

New Jersey Supreme Court finds Killen acted improperly in case where recusal was warranted

By David Wildstein, May 17 2022 5:59 pm

The New Jersey Supreme Court has publicly censured Guy W. Killen, a former municipal court judge in West Deptford and Vineland, for breaching the judicial code of conduct by failing to recuse from a matter involving the son of the former mayor who backed his appointment.

Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct had filed a complaint in 2021 alleging that Killen  acted improperly by failing to step back from an August 2020 case involving David Shields Jr., the son of former West Deptford Mayor David Shields Sr.

Killen had issued a temporary restraining order and search warrant against the younger Shields after he allegedly got into a domestic dispute with his ex-wife and attempted to stop her and her children from leaving their home by blocking them in with his car.

The judge said he believed Shields Jr.’s relationship to the former mayor did not pose a conflict of interest because the elder Shields was no longer in office.

An officer dispatched to Shields’ home to execute the warrant in search of weapons was told it belonged to the elder Shields.

After being advised of the search, the former mayor called Killen and told him about the only weapons in the home were in a large safe inaccessible to his son.

Following that conversation, the judge called the officer and told him he was verbally modifying the warrant, rescinding an order to seize all weapons, because the safe was inaccessible.

Killen resigned as West Deptford’s municipal judge last September 2020 and has been on a leave of absence from his Vineland judgeship since October 2020.

In 2019, Killen admitted to  failing to properly maintain accounts dedicated to sums received on behalf of clients and purchase liability insurance.

Between October 17, 2017, and March 29, 2018, Killen’s name was added to a list of attorneys deemed ineligible to practice law for failing to maintain interest-bearing accounts into which all money received on behalf of clients must be deposited under state law.

In his answer to the complaint, filed by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, Killen admitted to failing to maintain those accounts but said he rectified the problem after receiving oral notice of the same on March 29.

During that time, Killen served as a part-time municipal court judge in Vineland.

He was suspended from his judicial duties by Superior Court Judge Benjamin Telsey between May 14, 2018, and June 5, 2018.

State law requires attorneys and law firms practicing as professional corporations in New Jersey purchase professional liability insurance.

Killen admitted to having failed to purchase said insurance. That failure was the subject of a complaint by the Office of Attorney Ethics.

The ACJC further alleged that, through the above incidents, Killen failed to maintain the standards of the judiciary.

The municipal judge admitted all county leveled against him but pled mitigating circumstances and asked to be allowed to make his case before the body.

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