A Nebraska judge who left a profanity-laced message on a prosecutor's voice mail is off the bench for four months.
The Supreme Court of Nebraska ruled on Friday that County Court Judge Jeffrey L. Marcuzzo violated judicial disciplinary rules when he left a vulgar message expressing his anger over a prosecutor's rescheduling of a matter before him.
The court also cited an ex parte conversation that the judge had with another prosecutor in which he used profanity. In addition, the court found that Marcuzzo, whose court sits in Omaha, Neb., improperly tried to intervene in a separate case against his nephew.
The Nebraska Supreme Court's order of a 120-day suspension without pay was harsher than the Nebraska Commission on Judicial Qualifications recommended. That panel called for a 90-day suspension without pay.
Marcuzzo did not respond the requests for an interview.
On Oct. 30, 2007, Marcuzzo left a voice mail message for Deputy County Attorney Chad Brown after Brown and opposing counsel had agreed, by using a court form, to reschedule a preliminary hearing in a criminal matter before Marcuzzo, who was not aware of the change.
According to Exhibit A to the commission's Aug. 1, 2008, complaint against the judge, Marcuzzo's voice mail message for Brown said, in part:
"I did not appreciate that one fucking bit. And if I find out you ever did that again to me or any other members of the county court bench, I'll shove it up your ass so fucking far it will make your throat hurt."
According to the complaint, the judge, after presiding over the preliminary hearing but before leaving the message, called another prosecutor on the case into his office and privately told her that the charges against the defendant were "bullshit" because they were not severe enough.
Upon hearing the voice mail message left for Brown, his supervisors at the Douglas County Attorney's office instructed him not to speak with the judge about it.
The following day, Marcuzzo tried talking to Brown at the courthouse about the message. When Brown declined to speak with him and walked away, Marcuzzo responded, "Get over here" in a stern manner, according to the commission's complaint.
On Nov. 5, 2007, Marcuzzo sent a letter to Brown, apologizing for his conduct and acknowledging that he had not been "exercising proper judicial demeanor" when he left the message.
"I let my temper get the best of me," the judge wrote.
Brown declined to answer questions about the sanction.
The Nebraska Supreme Court, in ordering Marcuzzo's suspension, also considered his involvement in a separate misdemeanor case against his nephew, James Mangiameli, who was charged in 2006 with violating a protection order. Prosecutors reached a plea deal with Mangiameli that called for 10-day jail term. When Mangiameli failed to appear for a hearing, the court issued a warrant for his arrest. Marcuzzo, according to the written ruling, requested that the prosecution reinstate the plea deal and he met with another judge to discuss the case. The nephew ultimately received probation.
The ruling in Comm'n on Judicial Qualifications v. Marcuzzo, No. S-35-080001, found that although the judge's conduct in his nephew's case was willful and deliberate, it was not done in bad faith.
Regarding the voice mail message and the ex parte communication, the court found that Marcuzzo violated ethics rules that require judges to avoid impropriety, perform their duties with impartiality and conduct themselves in a patient, dignified and courteous manner. The court also found that the judge violated the rule that prohibits conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and conduct that brings disrepute to the office.