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Superior Court Judge Randolph Subryan, New Jersey’s first judge of Asian ethnicity, faces disciplinary charges that he sexually harassed a female law clerk. The complaint, made public last week, accuses Subryan, who sits in Passaic County, of “a pattern of improper conduct that culminated in kissing the clerk against her will” on May 30, 2003. Subryan’s answer, dated March 31, admits some of the alleged conduct but denies any impropriety. The clerk is Jennifer Breaton, who worked for Subryan from September 2002 until she filed an internal harassment complaint in June 2003. She finished her clerkship with Judge Christine Miniman. The complaint, filed by Patrick Monahan Jr., Secretary of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, cites an Administrative Office of the Courts investigation, concluded last December, that determined that Subryan’s actions were “in violation of the Judiciary’s policy against sexual harassment.” The kiss was the alleged culmination of a series of events. Subryan told Breaton he was having dreams about her; placed his hands on her shoulders; offered to show her sexually explicit photographs and told her she was “going to turn him into a judge who had been disciplined for conduct amounting to sexual harassment,” according to the complaint, In the Matter of Randolph M. Subryan, ACJC 2004-101. The complaint says the May 30, 2003, kiss occurred in Subryan’s chambers when Breaton went to ask for advice about an upcoming job interview. Subryan closed the door and stood in front of it while talking with Breaton before grabbing her and proceeding to hug and kiss her on the lips against her will, it says. When she tried to push him away, he held her before releasing her, the complaint alleges. The complaint also alleges that Subryan, in Breaton’s presence, referred to a female attorney as “hot” and said he planned to give her a “writ of Rockmanus.” More than once, he remarked that “women under the age of eighteen are protected by law and woman above the age of thirty-five are protected by nature,” the complaint alleges. Subryan is charged with violating Canons 1 and 2A of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which require judges to observe high standards of conduct and to respect and comply with the law. He is also accused of “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice,” contrary to R. 2:15-8(a)(6). Court rules authorize an immediate temporary suspension if the Supreme Court finds probable cause to conclude that a judge has violated the canons, case law or other authority and that continued service while ACJC proceedings are pending “poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the administration of justice.” R. 2:15-17(a). The ACJC has scheduled hearings for Tuesday and Thursday. In the meantime, Subryan, a Criminal Part judge, is still hearing cases but is barred from domestic violence matters and cases involving sexual offenses, says AOC spokeswoman Winnie Comfort. There are no restrictions, however, on his working with female clerks or court employees, Comfort says. Noreen Ahmed, Subryan’s present clerk, declines comment. FIRST JUDGE OF ASIAN ETHNICITY When Gov. James Florio first appointed Subryan to the bench in 1993, he was a source of pride among Asian-Americans as the first judge of Asian background in New Jersey. Born in Guyana and of Indian ancestry, Subryan practiced law in England and Guyana before moving to the United States and graduating from Rutgers Law School-Newark in 1980. Last Thursday, the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, which claims a membership of more than 1,000 lawyers, released a statement of support, asking the public not to prejudge the matter before fact-finding has been completed. Association president Vimal Shah, a partner with Carpenter Bennett & Morrissey in Newark, praised Subryan in the statement as “a strong advocate for diversity” who “has always demonstrated exemplary character, decorum and propriety.” A 1999 survey of trial judges by the Law Journal ranked Subryan 100 out of 348 state judges in overall competence. His worst relative rating was in the category of freedom from bias, where a 4.13 score against a state average of 4.14 gave him a rank of 203 statewide. Subryan won reappointment in 2000 after Gov. Christine Todd Whitman nominated him for tenure. Now 61, he could serve for eight more years. Subryan, in his answer, admits the “Rockmanus” remark but claims it is a Yiddish word without sexual connotation that means “compassion” and that it was taken out of context. He concedes he placed his hands on Breaton’s shoulder but denies the act was sexual in nature. As for the photographs, they were potential evidence in a case, he contends. Subryan could not be reached for comment but his lawyer, Justin Walder, calls the allegations “untrue and grossly exaggerated by J.B. in pursuit of her own personal interests.” Walder, a partner with Walder, Hayden & Brogan in Roseland, declines to elaborate on what those personal interests might be or to comment further on the merits of the case. Breaton’s attorney, Merrick Rossein, does not rule out the possibility she will file a civil suit, though he says that was not what she planned when she complained about Subryan. “Her intention all along was to make sure that the court system knew what the issues were with regard to this judge and that he was not in a position to abuse other women in the future,” says Rossein, a professor at City University of New York School of Law who taught Breaton employment law. He is representing her pro bono for purposes of the disciplinary case but says Breaton will retain a New Jersey attorney if she sues. Rossein points out that Breaton ended up declining an offer of a federal clerkship with a bankruptcy judge in New Jersey who allegedly had a friendship with Subryan that would have made the job awkward. He declines to name the judge. During the clerkship, Breaton tried to handle the situation on her own until the point she was physically grabbed and kissed, says Rossein. She then sought his advice. Rossein praises the New Jersey judiciary for how they are dealing with the complaint. “They did not “circle the wagon to protect their own,” he says. Breaton is now doing criminal defense work for the legal services fund of Local 32B of the Building Services Employees’ International Union in New York. She did not return a call seeking comment. Richmond Luke, who clerked for Passaic judge Ronald Marmo at the same time as Breaton, and describes himself as a “personal friend,” credits her for coming forward. “I know she’s doing so at great personal cost,” he says. Luke, an associate with Edward Buzak’s law office in Montville, says Breaton informed him of the incidents only a few months ago and he had no awareness of them at the time. When Miniman and Subryan switched clerks, people around the courthouse were left wondering “which judge was unhappy with which clerk,” he says. A “tight lid” was kept on the investigation that followed Breaton’s June 2003 complaint. Though Luke expresses “a lot of respect” for Subryan’s performance on the bench, he calls the alleged harassment of a law clerk “professionally disappointing,” especially for a former prosecutor. If the charges are sustained, Subryan might face the same penalty as former Middlesex Superior Court Judge Edward Seaman, who resigned in 1993 after the Court suspended him for two months without pay for sexually harassing his law clerk, Barbara Denny. The ACJC had recommended public censure.

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