Legal Ethics

Judge Reprimanded for Jailing Defendant Who Gave Him a Raspberry

  • Print.

A New Jersey judge has been reprimanded for jailing a traffic defendant who gave him the finger, made a raspberry sound and used a profanity during a video arraignment.

The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed a finding that Judge Emery Toth of the South River Municipal Court violated contempt rules and made undignified and sarcastic comments, the New Jersey Law Journal reports. Toth accepted responsibility, according to a presentment (PDF) by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.

The presentment quoted this exchange after the defendant, a cabdriver, apparently made a raspberry sound, touched his middle finger to his mouth and directed a profanity toward the judge:

Toth: Let me explain something to you. … I’m a street guy. I didn’t get offended when you gave me the old fist up in the air. That’s OK. I didn’t really care about that. But when you give me raspberries walking out and you give me some kind of disrespect like that, I’m just telling you that’s contempt in the face of the court. You’re going to jail. You’re going to stay there for another 30 days. …

Defendant: Appreciate it.

Toth: No, OK, I’m giving you 40 days, 45 days. I told you don’t give me any attitude. You want to give me the (indiscernible) and you want to give me the lip. You want to disrespect …

Defendant: (Indiscernible)

Toth: Sixty days. Get out of here. Sixty days. Give him 60 days.

Defendant: No, give me 70.

Toth: Seventy-five.

Eventually, Toth upped the sentenced to 180 days in jail. The advisory committee said Toth’s sentence “more closely resembled an auction than a judicial proceeding.”

The Legal Profession Blog also covered the ruling.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.