On an Order to Show Cause why respondent should not be disciplined.
For reprimand -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Clifford, Schreiber, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern and Garibaldi. Opposed -- None.
[92 NJ Page 568] The Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (the "Committee") issued a presentment, recommending that respondent, Richard J. Murray of Somerville, former*fn1 Municipal Court Judge for the Borough of Far Hills, be publicly reprimanded for having violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by intervening in a matter pending before another municipal court. The Court ordered respondent to show cause why he should not be publicly reprimanded. Pursuant to R. 2:15-13, respondent moved for an order rejecting the Committee's recommendation. Respondent, whose prior record both as a judicial officer and a practicing attorney had been spotless and who has expressed his sincere regret for this incident, requests that whatever discipline we impose be delivered in private. Nevertheless, because of the nature of his transgression and its effect on the public interest, we deny the respondent's motion and adopt the recommendation of the Committee that respondent be publicly reprimanded.
The Committee accurately sets forth the relevant facts in its presentment, viz:
[O]n August 12, 1981, Richard Cowan filed a criminal complaint against Alan R. McDonald in the Allamuchy Municipal Court. The complaint charged Mr. McDonald with theft by deception, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4(a).
It appears that both Mr. McDonald and his wife, who had been longtime clients of respondent, were out of the State at the time the criminal complaint was filed. Respondent advised the officer assigned to serve the summons to deliver it to the McDonalds' daughter, who was at the family residence in Hackettstown.*fn2 After the daughter received the summons she mailed it to respondent on August 19, 1981. Respondent received the summons on August 20, 1981 and then unsuccessfully attempted to contact both the Municipal Court Judge and Acting Municipal Court Judge of Allamuchy in order to request that Mr. McDonald's probable cause hearing be adjourned.*fn* He was able to speak to the secretary of the Acting Judge however, and was advised to forward his request to the court in writing. Thus, later that same day respondent authored and forwarded a letter on behalf of Mr. McDonald to the Honorable Joseph G. Houston, the Municipal Court Judge of Allamuchy Township.
The text of the letter is as follows:
Please be advised that I just received today a copy of a summons entitled as above, # SH90224. I am a municipal judge and have been for many years and am writing to you because I am personally involved in this matter. I represented Mr. and Mrs. Alan R. McDonald who had an art gallery. Apparently Mr. Cowan consigned certain articles to them. These articles were in turn consigned to the Rothschild Gallery. The Rothschild Gallery sold some of the articles without the consent of the McDonalds.
There was a protracted law suit in which I represented the McDonalds against the Rothschild Gallery. Mr. Cowan was advised of the suit and kept apprised of its progress. Part of the contentions of the Rothschild Gallery were that the articles were mis-represented by my clients or the person who gave the articles to my clients. There was a judgment for $11,000.00 taken and there have been attempts for the last five or six months to obtain moneys from the Rothschild Gallery. Mr. Cowan was advised that there would be an accounting of the moneys when, as and if the same were collected from Rothschild Gallery.
I am personally involved because I represented the McDonalds and in addition thereto, I have some of the articles which were consigned. My clients on
numerous occasions tried in vain to have Mr. Cowan pick up the remaining articles that were left with them, according to my clients. My clients even tell me that Mr. Cowan has even refused certified ...