Superior Court Judge Theresa Mullen is fighting to keep the state’s top court from removing her, but she’s likely to lose her job regardless of how the Supreme Court rules.
Mullen’s current seven-year term ends on October 22 and Gov. Phil Murphy has not renominated her. With the New Jersey State Senate in recess until after the November election, that means Mullen has just five more weeks left on the bench before her judicial career comes to an end.
That means Mullen may be gone before the Supreme Court, which heard from Mullen on Monday, makes their ruling. Gov. Phil Murphy did not renominate Mullen to her judgeship.
The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct has recommended the removal of the 54-year-old Mullen following a 2016 incident at a parochial school where her daughters attend.
The Union County judge accused the 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.
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.
There is still a path for Mullen to go back on the bench, but not without an interruption of service. That would require Murphy to renominate her, the three Union County senators to sign off on her nomination, and the Senate to confirm her.
Even if that happened, because of the interruption of service, Mullen would be back to a seven-year term without tenure.
The process of judicial discipline moves slowly. The initial complaint against Mullen was filed on May 1, 2018.