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Superior Court Judge Theresa Mullen. (Photo: New Jersey Courts).

Ex-Superior Court judge lied under oath, special panel says

Supreme Court taking steps to permanently remove Theresa Mullen, who left the bench last year

By David Wildstein, August 23 2022 4:51 pm

A special panel of judges appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court say that former Superior Court Judge Theresa Mullen refused to take responsibility for a 2016 incident at a parochial school in Kenilworth and that she later lied under oath.

Mullen, who served as a judge from 2014 to 2021, accused St. Theresa School of retaliation following a lawsuit against the school in bid for her daughter to play on the boys’ basketball team.  There was no girls’ basketball team at the school.

A panel of judges named by the Supreme Court to hear the matter said that Mullen “no doubt anticipated her children would be expelled, as the lawsuit clearly violated school policy.”

“When she came to the school, respondent created a scene for nearly an hour, during which she refused to leave despite the school administrator’s request that she do so.  The conclusion is inescapable that but for her judicial office, police would have escorted her out immediately, rather than attempting to convince her to leave voluntarily.”

“When faced with the consequences of her trespass, respondent lied under oath,” the judges stated in their opinion.  “She has blamed everyone but herself for her predicament.”

In a recommendation to the Supreme Court, the judges opined that Mullen’s “refusal to take responsibility, and stunning lack of remorse, demonstrate there is no hope she could exercise better judgment in the future.”

“Removal is the only option to preserve public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary,” They said.

The school’s rules require parents who drag it into legal matters remove their children from its rolls.  As a result, Mullen’s two daughters were expelled.  Mullen got into an altercation with school and police officials on school grounds the following day.

The melee ended with a charge of defiant trespass filed against Mullen. The judge in that trial said Mullen lacked credibility — a point agreed to by an appellate panel that upheld her conviction.

The ACJC also found her hard to trust, noting her testimony diverged sharply from other witness accounts.  The panel found the same lack of candor in the civil case her husband brought against the school and the Archdiocese of Newark and that she had abused her position as a judge.

The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct had recommended Mullen’s removal and  Gov. Phil Murphy did not renominate her.

A special panel named by the top court eleven months ago heard arguments on May 3 after Mullen had sought several extensions due to health issues.

“On May 2, 2022, at approximately 9:45 p.m., respondent supplied documentation related to her medical issue,” the panel  said.  “We found the documentation did not establish sufficient cause to postpone the hearing. On May 3, 2022, the hearing took place as scheduled.  Respondent did not appear.”

The matter was decided today.

“The Attorney General, however, has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that respondent directly used her judicial status to gain favorable treatment,” the panel said.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on her removal for November 28-29 even though the judge left the bench last October.

In New Jersey, ethics complaints filed against judges – this one was initiated in 2018 – continue even after they leave the bench.  A decision by the Supreme Court to remove her could block a future governor from seeking a return of Mullen to a judgeship.

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