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In re Hardt

Decided: January 28, 1977.

IN THE MATTER OF FREDERICK W. HARDT, JUDGE OF THE MUNICIPAL COURT OF THE TOWNSHIP OF EVESHAM, COUNTY OF BURLINGTON


For removal from office -- Chief Justice Hughes, Justices Mountain, Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford and Schreiber and Judge Conford. Opposed -- None.

Per Curiam

This case involves removal of a municipal judge by the Supreme Court in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2A:1B-1 et seq. and R. 2:14-1. Investigatory proceedings concerning the performance of Frederick W. Hardt as a municipal judge of Evesham Township were held by the Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct. R. 2:15-8. Upon conclusion of the investigation, including a formal hearing at which the respondent testified, the Committee recommended that proceedings be instituted for his removal as a judge (one committee member recommended a reprimand). Thereupon this Court caused a complaint to be filed and issued an order to show cause why respondent should not be removed from office and requiring the filing of an answer within 30 days. R. 2:14-2. The order to show cause also designated the Attorney General or his representative to prosecute the matter, N.J.S.A. 2A:1B-4, before a three judge panel. N.J.S.A. 2A:1B-7.

A hearing was held before that panel on July 1, 1976. The parties stipulated that all the evidence, including exhibits, produced in the proceedings before the Advisory Committee

on Judicial Conduct be admitted into the record. In addition, the respondent and five character witnesses testified. After making detailed factual findings, the judicial panel found beyond a reasonable doubt, N.J.S.A. 2A:1B-9, that the respondent had violated Canons 1, 2 and 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. We have reviewed all the evidence and have arrived at the same conclusion.

The facts are essentially undisputed, the respondent having admitted almost all the allegations of the complaint. On October 10, 1974 Muriel Mansmann received a traffic ticket from Patrolman Haines for speeding on Route 73 in Evesham Township. The charge was driving 64 miles per hour in a 50 mile speed zone. The summons was returnable on November 6 at 7:00 P.M. before the Evesham Municipal Court.

Miss Mansmann was employed by the law firm of Maressa, Shoemaker & Borbe. She had been Mr. Maressa's secretary for 17 years. Since she expected to enter the hospital around the return date for the summons, Miss Mansmann called the Evesham Municipal Court clerk's office and adjourned the case to December 18. In addition, Joseph Leedom, Chief of Police in the Township, testified that he received a telephone call on November 6 from someone in Mr. Maressa's office requesting that he arrange for the adjournment. This he did. Miss Mansmann confirmed the adjournment by letter dated November 7 over Mr. Maressa's signature. She entered the hospital on November 8 or 9.

Anna Ferry, clerk of the Evesham Municipal Court, and Joyce Harper, deputy clerk, testified Chief Leedom came into the office and requested that the Mansmann matter be placed on the calendar of November 20. The matter was listed and included in the court schedule for that day. The format of the schedule set forth beneath the name of each police officer those matters with which he was involved. A copy of the schedule was posted at police headquarters and listed only one case beneath Officer Haines' name, that of Muriel Mansmann.

Officer Haines had worked the midnight to 8:00 A.M. shift on November 20. When he came off duty, he examined the list and found that both his and Miss Mansmann's names were scratched off. Thinking that the case had been postponed or that a guilty plea had been entered and a fine paid, Haines left.

On November 20, respondent Judge Frederick W. Hardt began court at 9:00 A.M. The clerk was seated to the right of Judge Hardt. The deputy clerk sat at the far left side of the dais where a tape recording machine was located. She was in charge of the sound recording device. Microphones were located in front of the bench, where defendants usually stood, on the bench, and in front of counsel.

Proceedings continued into the afternoon until only the clerk, Anna Ferry, the deputy clerk, Joyce Harper, the Municipal Prosecutor, Robert Weishoff, and the respondent were present. The tape recorder was operative and the transcript reads as follows:

THE COURT: Muriel J. Mansmann?

Muriel J. Mansmann. Mr. [ sic ] Mansmann. I have a summons that alleges a violation of the provisions of 39:4-98C. ...


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