NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued June 4, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Somerset County, Docket No. FM-18-937-06.
Harry J. Carr, appellant/cross-respondent, argued the cause pro se.
James P. Yudes argued the cause for respondent/cross-appellant (James P. Yudes, P.C., attorneys; Mr. Yudes and Karen T. Willitts, on the brief).
Before Judges Yannotti and Harris.
In this post-divorce-judgment matter, defendant Harry J. Carr appeals from the Family Part's orders of (1) February 28, 2012 (enforcing the June 29, 2011 final judgment of divorce and a January 3, 2012 post-judgment order); (2) May 8, 2012 (denying reconsideration); and (3) August 8, 2012 (denying the motion judge's disqualification, a stay, and attorneys' fees). Without addressing the substance of any of the orders except the motion judge's failure to recuse herself, we reverse the denial of recusal, vacate all other provisions of the orders, and remand the matters for consideration anew by another judge.
We glean the following facts from the record of the several post-judgment motions. Plaintiff Deborah Carr commenced the present litigation in April 2006, seeking to dissolve the parties' almost-eighteen-year marriage. In June 2006, Mr. Carr filed an answer, counterclaim, and third-party complaint. The third-party action implicated material issues concerning equitable distribution. It sought remedies against Mrs. Carr's parents, sisters, and brothers-in-law relating to the ownership of real estate in Bernardsville occupied by the third-party defendants.
In order to defend the third-party action that sought to evict them from their separate dwellings, Mrs. Carr's family members jointly hired counsel, initially Timothy McKeown of Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus,  and then, in April 2007, Mark Sobel of Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis LLP (Greenbaum Rowe). Mr. Carr was represented by Bruce Nagel in connection with the issues raised in the third-party action.
In the course of the hotly contested litigation, third-party defendants' finances became exhausted. To enable her family members to continue to defend (and advance) their positions, Mrs. Carr lent them money for legal fees, which ultimately were paid to Greenbaum Rowe. At no time was Mrs. Carr herself represented by Sobel or Greenbaum Rowe, and none of the legal fees were directly remitted to that firm by her. When Mrs. Carr filed for divorce, she was represented by James P. Yudes. Yudes continued as her attorney throughout the Family Part proceedings and represents her in this appeal.
A Family Part judge commenced the trial on October 26, 2009. On April 8, 2010 —— the thirty-eighth trial day —— a settlement was reached with the third-party defendants. After placing the settlement terms on the record, all disputes among the parties and third-party defendants ended. However, countless unresolved issues remained between Mr. and Mrs. Carr, which caused the trial to continue for an additional seventeen days. In that span, Sobel did not participate.
The testimonial phase of the trial ended on May 26, 2010. Thirteen months later, on June 29, 2011, the trial judge —— who by then had been re-assigned to the Criminal Part —— issued a forty-nine page written opinion and entered a final judgment of divorce. Cross-appeals from that judgment were filed in July 2011, and remain pending today.
On September 16, 2012, we ordered a ninety-day limited remand for the Family Part to resolve certain identified issues. The trial judge conducted the remand proceedings and issued an order resolving the issues on remand on January 3, 2012. On February 24, 2012, the same judge ...