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In re Stevens

Decided: December 19, 1955.

IN THE MATTER OF CHARLES M. STEVENS, MUNICIPAL MAGISTRATE OF THE BOROUGH OF RARITAN


On the return of the order to show cause, Mr. Leon Gerofsky, County Prosecutor of Somerset County, specially appointed by the court, argued the matter.

For discharge of order -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs and Brennan. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Vanderbilt, C.J.

Vanderbilt

The attention of this court was directed to the conduct of Magistrate Charles M. Stevens at a session of the Municipal Court of the Borough of Raritan held by him on November 18, 1955, through certain newspaper articles concerning said session and photographs published therewith. The magistrate having failed to respond to letters sent him by the Chief Justice and the Administrative Director of the Courts asking for an explanation, an order was issued directing him to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for violating the Rules Governing the Municipal Courts promulgated by this court and the Canons of Judicial Ethics which have been adopted as rules of court governing the conduct of all judges in this State.

At the hearing on the order to show cause the following facts were established, principally by Magistrate Stevens' own admissions:

(a) His court was not kept and maintained in a clean, orderly and dignified manner.

(b) He failed to control the proceedings in his court, in that he permitted the taking of numerous photographs by various photographers while his court was in session.

(c) He permitted smoking in the courtroom by litigants and spectators; in fact, he himself was smoking during the session of his court.

(d) He did not wear a judicial robe while court was in session; in fact, he admitted that he had never worn a judicial robe.

(e) He discussed matters extraneous to the business of his court, in commenting on the actions of the police department and the borough council.

(f) He failed to keep proper order in his court by permitting litigants and spectators to shout and mill around.

(g) He offered to dance with a woman reporter in the courtroom.

(h) He threw a handful of summonses into the air in the courtroom at the request of photographers.

It is obvious that the conduct of Magistrate Stevens on this occasion was shockingly in violation of the standards imposed by the Rules of ...


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