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The Essex County Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo: Newark Public Library).

Superior Court Judge reassigned after scuffle with Newark mayor

Not realizing she was still on a Zoom, Judge Carolyn Wright launched into a tirade against Baraka

By David Wildstein, January 05 2022 12:02 am

Superior Court Judge Carolyn E. Wright was reassigned last month, just three days after a contentious meeting with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to discuss juvenile justice programs went in the wrong direction.

Essex County Assignment Judge Sheila Venable unexpectedly summoned Wright to a Zoom meeting on December 14 where Baraka was voicing his objections to the implementation of ankle bracelet monitoring of juveniles charged with crimes, and to some of Wright’s decisions involving the detainment of young alleged offenders.

The conversation included a complaint that juveniles facing gun charges were being released with bracelet monitoring instead of a more intensive program.

The meeting was set up at the request of Kenyatta Stewart, the Newark Corporation Counsel, to discuss programs regarding the rehabilitation of juveniles facing criminal charges.

The New Jersey Globe has confirmed that the conversation between Wright and Baraka became heated, with the judge blaming some of the issues on the Newark Police Department.

Following the conclusion of the meeting, Wright, seemingly unaware that the Zoom meeting was still active and participating from her home, launched into a tirade against Baraka, apparently to her husband, Armando Diaz, a retired Essex County Sheriff’s officer.

As a result of her comments, Wright was transferred out of the Family Court Division, where she had been assigned juvenile crime cases, and into the Criminal Division on December 17.

Wright’s replacement is Judge Avion M. Benjamin, who became first assistant Newark Corporation Counsel after Baraka took office.  She spent as a lawyer for the city before being nominated to the Superior Court in 2020.

Wright, 61, was nominated to the bench by Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009 after 17 years as an assistant Essex County Prosecutor that included time as head of the homicide unit and the trial division.

The New Jersey Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Wright in 2018 for attempting to bypass the traditional judicial process in seeking to get an immediate custody hearing for a close family friend.

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