Legal Ethics

N.J. Judge Reprimanded for Rant About Undocumented Aliens, O.J. Remark

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Two New Jersey judges have been reprimanded for making remarks in the courtroom that touched on race, ethnicity or physical disabilities.

One of the judges, James Citta of Ocean County, ridiculed a defendant’s English-speaking skills and compared another to O.J. Simpson, according to the New Jersey Law Journal, and the Associated Press reports.

The other judge, James Convery of Essex County, asked a Hispanic lawyer when she became an illegal alien, according to the New Jersey Law Journal and He also joked about a litigant’s hearing aid and “Bionic” hip and knee replacements, the stories say.

Both waived a hearing and accepted a reprimand by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, according to the New Jersey Law Journal.

Citta’s remarks about English were made after a defense lawyer said his client violated parole partly because he had problems communicating with his parole officer, who did not speak Spanish. The New Jersey Law Journal published Citta’s response:

“Not only do we have to let him come into the country illegally and stay here, not only do we have to provide him with public assistance, not only do we have to provide him with free health care, not only do we have to provide him with a free attorney when he gets in trouble, now he wants a bilingual probation officer, because otherwise it’s inconvenient for him,” Citta said.

Addressing the defendant, Citta said that, if it were up to him, “I’d take you just as you’re dressed and bound right now and have you escorted back to Mexico forthwith and forget the prison term.”

Citta told another defendant his picture should be next to the words “domestic violence” in the dictionary, the New Jersey Law Journal story says. He said the defendant was the same as O.J. Simpson, except that Simpson “got off for some reason in a land of fruits and nuts.”

Citta, who was moved to the civil division in 2008, said being a criminal court judge had “exacted a toll which, on occasion, has led me to say things better left unsaid.”

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