A New Jersey judge is facing ethics charges for allegedly sending a series of “discourteous and undignified” emails to a local prosecutor, then pretending she did not know about them when questioned by a defense attorney.
The state Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct filed a complaint on July 11 against Camden City Municipal Court Chief Judge Christine Jones-Tucker, alleging that she violated the Canons of Judicial Conduct.
Attempts to reach Jones-Tucker for comment were unsuccessful.
The charges must be considered by the ACJC and the Supreme Court before any decision is made on the validity of the allegations.
Jones-Tucker has been the city’s chief judge since August 2016.
The charges, filed by ACJC counsel Maureen Bauman, largely center on a series of emails Jones-Tucker allegedly sent to Kristina Bryant, who at the time was a municipal prosecutor.
Bryant is now a solo in Haddonfield. She declined to comment.
The emails concerned the setting of a trial date for a man named Derek Heimstra, who was charged with driving while intoxicated, according to the complaint.
Heimstra was represented by John Sitzler of Sitzler & Sitzler in Hainesport, who also did not respond to a request for comment.
The emails in question primarily occurred on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, 2016, when Bryant was asking to have a February 2017 trial date postponed because of a problem with witnesses. The trial date had been rescheduled once before.
Jones-Tucker, the ACJC complaint said, then sent Bryant a series of emails starting at 10:54 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, saying that rescheduling was a “complete waste of court resources.”
“Get with the program,” the complaint quotes Jones-Tucker as saying. There were other emails from Jones-Tucker up until 11:09 p.m., the complaint alleged.
“Not a game,” the complaint also quotes the judge as saying. “Not a game. This is the date. Not a game.”
“Sick of this. Respect for the city [of] Camden. Respect for our court.”
On New Year’s Day 2017, Bryant, the complaint said, sent an email to City Attorney Marc Riondino, saying she found the emails “condescending and disrespectful.”
On Jan. 2, the complaint said, Jones-Tucker sent an email to Bryant affirming the trial date and added: “This is it [sic] a game … Respect for this court. Respect for this city.”
Sitzler appeared before Jones-Tucker on Jan. 6, 2017, to inquire about a firm trial date. He apparently had learned of the emails between Jones-Tucker and Bryant, and asked the judge about them since he had never been copied.
“I’m not sure what emails you’re referring to,” the complaint quotes Jones-Tucker as saying.
Afterwards, the complaint said, Jones-Tucker said the Heimstra case would be reassigned, and then notified Riondino in an email that she would no longer hear cases involving Bryant.
The complaint said the judge “demonstrated a lack of veracity and an inability to conform her conduct to the high standards of conduct expected of judges and impugned the integrity of the judiciary.”