Judge's employee nicknames were discourteous and undignified, ethics complaint alleges

An ethics complaint says a New Jersey judge demonstrated discourteous and undignified behavior when he referred to court personnel by nicknames.

According to the April 1 complaint (PDF), Judge Gerald Council of Mercer County called a senior probation officer “my little pet” and referred to a drug court coordinator as “hop-a-long” after the worker had hip surgery. Mercer has overseen the drug court since 2007 and is the presiding criminal division judge. The Times of Trenton and Law360 (sub. req.) have stories.

The complaint also alleged that Council “publicly humiliated, belittled and demeaned” a drug court coordinator, referring to her as “my problem child” in an April 2012 incident and pulling her by the ear to the exit of his courtroom.

On another occasion, the complaint says, Council “shushed” the drug treatment coordinator and held his hand up to her face in open court when she approached the judge to discuss an appointment for an uncooperative drug court participant. Council “sternly told” the treatment coordinator that he did not want to hear from her, the ethics complaint says.

The publications were unable to reach Council or his lawyer for comment.

News of the disciplinary complaint has spurred Mercer County’s top public defender to call for the ethics committee to act on allegations that Council banned an assistant public defender from his courtroom, the Trentonian reports.

Public Defender Vernon Clash says Council imposed the ban after the assistant PD got another judge to grant bail for a suspect after Council denied bail.

Clash called the judge’s decision “bullying” and said he could have instead punished the assistant public defender through a fine or a lecture.

New Jersey Supreme Court spokeswoman Winnie Comfort told the Trentonian that the PD case is still being evaluated by a screening committee. Council told the publication that he cannot comment because secrecy is required at this stage of the case.

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