Ethics charge against judge for quip

Should Ethics Charges Against Judge for Quip About ‘Bund Meeting’ be Dismissed?

N.J. Law Journal Reports:

The state Supreme Court has dismissed an ethics complaint against a Union County judge who made an off-color remark in the presence of a Jewish lawyer about a 1930s American pro-Nazi organization. This is not the first time Judge Wertheimer has been cautioned by the ethics committee.

“Loose Lips Sink Ships”

In 2007, the committee issued a letter of caution to Wertheimer for telling an assistant prosecutor of Nigerian descent that most Nigerians who come through the court are in handcuffs. Wertheimer later called the same assistant prosecutor a “crappy attorney,” according to the committee.

Wertheimer, however, said he and the attorney had a friendly relationship and his comments were “mere light-hearted banter.”   According to Wertheimer, the same assistant prosecutor wrote in a 2007 letter to the committee that he was not offended by the judge’s comments and enjoyed Wertheimer’s dry sense of humor.

The committee’s letter of caution also alleged that after a hung jury, Wertheimer told a prosecutor the state would have had a good shot at a guilty verdict if she had not selected for the jury two “lower-class blacks” who usually have problems with transit police.

Wertheimer said that comment was “not based on any type of racial animus,” but rather his observation in 40 years of trial experience “that blacks of a lower socioeconomic status were less likely to convict a defendant in a case involving transit police.”

“The statement was pedantic not pejorative,” according to the judge’s response. Here’s a link to the article appearing in NJ.com

N.J. Car Accident Lawyer

Ssssh....I'm thinking

Commentary

A judge occupies a position of honor and trust, and  may wish to save his/her “dry” sense of humor for cocktail parties. In this day of “political correctness” when an individual holds a respected judicial  position with high visibility, why not be a little more circumspect; especially after being spanked for similar remarks?

Why would an experienced jurist like Judge Wertheimer make an off-color remark to a Nigerian attorney about Nigerians being led through his court in shackles?  He’s not Don Rickles.  Why make a distasteful remark about a “Bund” meeting to a Jewish attorney requesting leave early to attend a Sedar? Why choose to be pedantic about a prosecutor’s choice of low-income black jurors who, according to Judge Wertheimer, “usually have problems with transit police?”

Judge Wertheimer’s attorney responds:

“It’s a travesty that he has to defend himself against these claims in light of his stellar career on the bench,” said attorney Marc Wolin, who submitted the ethics response on behalf of Wertheimer, 67, a tenured judge who has handled civil and criminal trials since 1984.”

I disagree. Not about Judge Wertheimer’s stellar career. But, about attempts at off colored “dry humor” from the bench. It is not necessary, nor is it appropriate. If you have to “explain” a joke, it’s probably not funny.

[image courtesy of Premise Punch Tag]

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About Lawrence "Larry" Berezin

I retired from the private practice of law after a 35-year legal career and fight parking tickets for people like you and me. I love sharing valuable information, tips and tricks to help drivers beat NYC parking tickets.

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