Judge who secretly recorded meetings with boss suspended for 2 months without pay

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A New Jersey judge has been suspended for two months without pay for secretly recording meetings with her assignment judge and denying she had done it.

In an order on Thursday, the New Jersey Supreme Court suspended state Superior Court Judge Deborah Gross-Quatrone for taping or trying to tape three meetings with Assignment Judge Bonnie Mizdol of Bergen County.

The state’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct had alleged Gross-Quatrone denied taping the last of three meetings when questioned about a red light emanating from her purse.

Gross-Quatrone said she didn’t succeed when she tried to tape a December 2015 meeting to discuss a law clerk who had complained of alleged abusive treatment by Gross-Quatrone. A week later, she taped a private meeting with Mizdol, as well as a meeting with Mizdol and other court officials, according to a presentment of the advisory committee’s findings.

After one of the officials saw the red light and pulled the tape recorder from Gross-Quatrone’s purse, Gross-Quatrone denied recording the meeting. “No! It was a gift from my parents. I’m not taping the meeting. I don’t know how this thing works,” Gross-Quatrone allegedly said.

Gross-Quatrone had later maintained she had to record the meetings to protect herself because of what she thought to be verbal abuse and belittling treatment by Mizdol. The advisory committee said Gross-Quatrone’s defense was inadequate to justify the taping.

While Gross-Quatrone “may have perceived herself to be the subject of hostile treatment, she had available to her several options to address the situation short of engaging in deceptive and insubordinate conduct,” the advisory committee said.

The advisory committee also cited evidence that Gross-Quatrone asked her judicial secretary to perform personal tasks for her, including paying bills, managing personal travel and, in one instance, helping her son with homework. The secretary said she performed the tasks voluntarily, and they did not interfere with her work for the judiciary, to which she devoted more than the required 35 hours per week.

The advisory committee concluded that the personal tasks performed by the secretary did not go beyond the incidental work allowed under judicial canons. As a result, there was no ethics violation, the committee concluded. The New Jersey Supreme Court accepted the finding.

The committee also said Gross-Quatrone has performed satisfactorily since she transferred to Essex County in January 2016, and it commended her on her dedicated service.

Hat tip to Law360 and the Associated Press.

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