Judge faces potential discipline for allowing secretary to work remotely
An ethics complaint alleges that a New Jersey judge abused the power of his office by allowing his secretary to work remotely in violation of office policy. (Image from Shutterstock)
An ethics complaint alleges that a New Jersey judge abused the power of his office by allowing his secretary to work remotely in violation of office policy.
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct accused Judge Douglas H. Hurd in a Jan. 30 ethics complaint, Law.com reports. He is the civil presiding judge in the Mercer vicinage in Trenton, New Jersey.
According to the ethics complaint, courts were working remotely beginning in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the judiciary resumed in-person operations, it instituted a policy in September 2021 that allowed one day weekly of remote work for eligible staff members who obtained approval. The policy was updated in April 2022 to allow two days of remote work each week.
Judges, secretaries of judges and judicial law clerks were not eligible for remote work, however.
Hurd’s secretary, identified as “L.C.” in the ethics complaint, moved out of New Jersey in 2021 and obtained an exemption from a residency requirement. She began working remotely “on a periodic basis,” with Hurd’s “knowledge and consent,” when the remote work policy began in September 2021, the ethics complaint said. She continued to work remotely until December 2022.
When Hurd was interviewed by advisory committee staff members, he acknowledged that L.C. worked remotely for about six months in 2022 and he authorized it, thinking that he had the power to do so.
The ethics complaint alleges that Hurd abused the power and prestige of his office to benefit his secretary, demonstrated an inability to conform his conduct to the high standards expected of judges, and failed to act in a manner that promoted public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
A person who identified himself as Hurd’s law clerk told the ABA Journal that the judge had no comment at this point.