State supreme court suspends former judge accused of harboring boyfriend sought in robbery

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The New Jersey Supreme Court has suspended an ex-judge who was accused seven years ago of helping her boyfriend evade police.

In a 4-2 ruling Thursday, the court found that former Superior Court Judge Carlia Brady violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and imposed on her a three-month suspension—a move that says is mostly symbolic since her term ended in April.

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Justice Walter Timpone represented Brady on criminal charges before joining the New Jersey Supreme Court and did not participate in Thursday’s decision.

Brady was arrested a couple of months after she was sworn in as a judge in Middlesex County in April 2013. She was charged with hindering the apprehension of her then-boyfriend, Jason Prontnicki, who was wanted in connection with an armed robbery, and suspended without pay.

Brady was eventually reinstated to the bench after prosecutors dropped charges against her, but the court said in its ruling that Brady declined to contact police in advance of Prontnicki’s two visits to her home. And, the court added, when she called police after those visits, “she was not forthcoming about her contacts with him and did not reveal her detailed knowledge of his activities.”

The court set aside Brady’s claims that a transcript of a voicemail she left with police was missing information and rejected her contention that police officers told her she should only contact them in specific circumstances.

“Nor does the Court find credible that she refrained from calling the police because she feared that Prontnicki would injure her,” its ruling states. “The evidence supports the inference that respondent acted in the hope that she could assist Prontnicki and preserve their relationship while maintaining her judicial career.”

The court held that Brady’s communications with police fell short of the high standards imposed by the Code of Judicial Conduct, despite recognizing that she was “undoubtedly in a difficult situation during the two days at issue here, and it is understandable that she was upset as those disturbing events unfolded.”

“The public has the right to expect that when police officers are searching for a fugitive accused of a violent crime and a judge has detailed knowledge of the whereabouts, activities and immediate plans of that fugitive, the judge will take prompt and decisive action to ensure that law enforcement is fully informed,” the court said. “There is no exception to that principle when the judge and the fugitive have a personal relationship.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court stopped short of removing Brady from the bench, the punishment that was recommended by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct. It considered several factors in its decision, including that this was the first ethics complaint filed against her.

The court also acknowledged “the emotional stress that respondent experienced on June 10 and 11, 2013, and in the nearly five years of criminal proceedings that followed, and the profound impact the events at issue have had on her life and career.”

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