CAMDEN, NJ—Camden City’s chief municipal judge is facing an ethics complaint after an email blitz launched on New Year’s Eve was described as ”disrespectful and condescending” by a municipal prosecutor.
The formal complaint was filed on July 11, 2018 by Maureen G. Bauman, disciplinary counsel of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct [ACJC], against Judge Christine Jones Tucker, or Judge Christine T.J. Tucker, as she is identified on the city website.
The complaint says Tucker violated four rules of the code of judicial conduct in an flurry of emails over the scheduling of a Feb. 22, 2017 DUI trial and in the subsequent questioning by the ACJC. Tucker could not be reached for comment.
The city does not comment on personnel and/or litigation/administrative matters involving a city employee, said Vince Basara, city spokesperson.
According to the complaint, over the span of 15 minutes on Dec. 31, 2016 beginning at approximately 10:54 p.m., using her official Camden City email account Tucker sent four emails addressed to Kristina M. Bryant, then a Camden City municipal prosecutor, telling her to “get with the program” and the trial date is “not a game.”
The emails were also sent to Municipal Court Director Tonya Stewart, Municipal Court Administrator Palmira White, City Municipal Prosecutor Sharon P. Eggleston, Cheryl Hendler Cohen, Esq. and Camden City Attorney Marc Riondino.
The emails were not sent to the attorney for the defendant in the DUI case, John S. Sitzler.
The following evening, on Jan. 1, 2017, Bryant emailed Riondino asking for advice on how to handle the situation, writing “Today I received a series of emails that quite frankly I found to be disrespectful and condescending.”
On Jan. 6, Sitzler appeared before Tucker “at the order of the court” after receiving notification from the municipal prosecutor in respect to his motion for a firm trial date in the DUI case. In the appearance, he requested the emails sent from Tucker to Bryant in which he was not copied.
According to the complaint, Tucker replied, “I’m not sure what emails you’re referring to,” and directed him to make his request in writing to the court director. Tucker then requested Bryant back to the courtroom, and, without Sitzler present, acknowledged the existence of the emails.
In an email to Stewart, White and Riondino following Mr. Sitzler’s request, Tucker stated she oppsoed his request to provide the emails and assigned the DUI case to another judge to “avoid any potential conflicts.”
According to the complaint, when Tucker was later questioned by the ACJC, she denied a conflict of interest with Mr. Sitzler. The complaint says that by telling Sitzler she had no knowledge of the emails on Jan. 6, Tucker “demonstrated a lack of veracity and inability to conform her conduct” that is expected of a judge.
If the ACJC holds a formal hearing on the complaint and finds that the charges have been proven by “clear and convincing evidence,” it could recommend to the Supreme Court that Tucker face public reprimand, censure, suspension or removal.