Click play for audio version of this story
The New Jersey Supreme Court has reappointed three members of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, the panel that investigates allegations of unethical conduct by New Jersey judges.
Karen Kessler, Matthew Boxer and Vincent Gentile were given additional three years terms
Kessler is a crisis communications consultant who works for Blue Skye FC, the professional soccer team owned by Gov. Phil Murphy. Boxer, a former state comptroller, was retained by the Office of the Governor to represent several top Murphy aides during their testimony before a legislative committee investigating the hiring of Al Alvarez.
Gentile, a partner at Drinker Biddle and a former federal prosecutor.
The Supreme Court appoints members of the nine-member committee for three-year terms and relies on them to determine which complaints are worthy of being referred to the top court to impose disciplinary action.
Members of the judicial conduct committee are appointed by the full court and are typically limited to four three-year terms. At least three of the nine members must be retired Supreme Court or Superior Court judges.
Kessler was appointed in 2013, while Boxer and Gentile joined the panel the following year.
The Supreme Court currently has seven pending judicial complaints before them, including seven municipal court judges. Over the past decade, fifteen Superior Court Judges and twelve Municipal Court Judges have faced disciplinary action.
Those numbers don’t include incidences when the judicial conduct panel chooses to deal privately with an ethical complaint, as they did last year with Judge Louis Sceusi. In those cases, no public records exist.
The court is not bound to follow the recommendations of the judicial conduct panel.
In April, the panel found that Superior Court Judge John Russo, Jr. should be suspended without pay for three months after asking a victim if she tried to avoid being raped by holding her legs together.
Five members, including Boxer and Gentile, voted to recommend Russo be suspended for three months. Kessler and three others asked that they suspension be for six months.
Instead, the Supreme Court announced in July that they have initiated proceedings to remove Russo from the bench – the toughest possible punishment and substantially more than the judicial conduct panel suggested.
A complaint is also pending against Superior Court Judge Marcia Silva, who refused to try a 16-year-old boy accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl as an adult. Silva ruled that the victim suffered no emotional, mental or physical harm past the loss of her virginity.
In July, the judiciary took the unusual step of announcing that the entire court system will close Starbucks-style sometime within the next ninety days so that all judges can receive training on sexual assault and domestic violence cases.