A Newark municipal court judge is facing disciplinary charges for having a woman jailed for 23 days for supposedly being disrespectful to him in the courtroom in a landlord-tenant matter.
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct filed the complaint against Newark Municipal Court Judge Marvin Adames.
ACJC Counsel Maureen Bauman said in the complaint—dated Nov. 27 and made public several days later—that Adames should be disciplined because he ordered the woman, Linda Lacey, to be jailed over an issue that didn’t justify incarceration.
According to the complaint, Lacey spent a total of 23 days in the Essex County jail over the Christmas 2016 holiday season because Adames believed she was “disrespecting” the court and needed a mental health evaluation—which was never conducted.
Lacey first encountered Adames on Nov. 17, 2016, in the landlord-tenant dispute that led to a petty disorderly persons complaint, the ACJC said. The apartment owner apparently wanted to evict Lacey and show the apartment, but Lacey refused to cooperate, according to the complaint.
Lacey, it seems, was at least somewhat uncooperative in court.
“I’m starting to believe, based on my experience, that you have some mental condition,” Adames told Lacey, adding that he planned to hold her in contempt pending a psychiatric evaluation by county authorities, according to the complaint.
“You must have some mental condition, ma’am,” the judge said, according to the complaint.
He then put Lacey in a holding cell before releasing her and scheduling another hearing date for Dec. 16, 2016, the complaint said.
At the Dec. 16 hearing, Lacey’s attorney asked to be relieved as counsel, and Adames granted the request, the complaint said.
Lacey again appeared to be uncooperative. “You’re being disrespectful,” Adames said, according to the ACJC. “You’re a very intelligent woman. You’re a very well-dressed woman. You’re well put together. But you’re doing nothing but playing games.”
Adames then ordered Lacey detained in the county jail pending the psychiatric evaluation and set a contempt hearing for Dec. 23, 2016. He set bail, which Lacey could not meet, the complaint said.
At the Dec. 23 hearing, Adames learned that there had been no psychiatric evaluation and he rescheduled the hearing for Jan. 5, 2017. Lacey remained behind bars in the interim.
At a Jan. 3, 2017, hearing Adames acknowledged that Lacey had been held in jail longer than was necessary, and said he would order her release after dismissing the contempt charge and disorderly persons complaint.
Adames, according to the complaint, said the “system hasn’t worked the way it’s supposed to work.”
Still, Lacey wasn’t released until a few days later—Jan. 7.
The complaint said Adames told ethics investigators he ordered Lacey held in jail because he feared that she would skip further court appearances.
The ACJC alleges that Adames violated the Codes of Judicial Conduct and the Rules of Professional Conduct by having Lacey jailed for a period longer necessary for the charges she faced, and for failing to follow proper procedures when he ordered the psychiatric evaluation that never occurred.
Adames, the complaint said, abused his authority by having Lacey remain in jail for 23 days.
Attempts to reach Adames were unsuccessful, and it was not immediately clear whether he has retained an attorney.
Adames, admitted in New Jersey in 2000, remained on the Newark Municipal Court as of the complaint date, the document said.
The complaint does not recommend a specific quantum of discipline being sought.