NJ judge in trouble for jailing woman 23 days over ‘disrespect’
NEWARK — A Newark Municipal Court judge is facing scrutiny for jailing a woman after he accused her of being "disrespectful" in court by snatching a pen from someone.
A complaint filed this week by a state advisory committee says Newark Municipal Court Judge Marvin Adames improperly held the woman in contempt and ordered her to undergo a psychological evaluation.
The woman spent 23 days in jail over Christmas 2016 and New Year's Day after she couldn't post $10,000 bail. She orginally had appeared before the court on a petty disorderly persons offense involving a landlord-tenant dispute.
Adames, a former school board member in Jersey City, was appointed to the bench in 2012. He earns $123,000 a year.
The complaint comes months after the state Supreme Court moved to begin dismissing more than 800,000 old parking tickets and moving violations as part of a reform of the municipal court system, which a committee for the court criticized for being operated as cash cows for municipalities.
During a court proceeding on Nov. 17, 2016, Adames told the woman:
I'm starting to believe, based on my experience, that you have some mental condition, and if I believe so, and I feel as though you're disrespecting the court, I'll hold you in contempt. I'll send you to the County. I'll have them do an evaluation so I make sure if you need medication and clear your mind, you do that and you're before me with your mind clear and straight. You understand me?
After judge saw the woman "violently yank" a pen from a court employee's hand, he ordered an officer to take the woman into custody.
The woman's lawyer explained to the judge that it had been a "very emotional day" for his client and "in no way did she mean to disrespect the court." The woman also apologized and she was released.
At a following hearing in December 2016, the woman appeared before the judge without an attorney.
The judge told her: "You're being disrespectful. You're a very intelligent woman. You're a very well dressed woman. You're well put together. But you are doing nothing but playing games. We've been together too many times. And this is now ridiculous."
He then had her detained on $10,000 bail, explaining:
Based on her actions in court over the course of time, and today just being completely disrespectful in her tone, her demeanor, her body language. Just completely disrespecting the authority of the court. And for violating the order that I set forth. But as part of this, I' II do the psych evaluation.
The psychological evaluation was never completed and the judge on Jan. 3, 2017, ordered her released, admitting that she had been held behind bars longer than she should have.
"In fairness I can't justify keeping her in custody a day longer, you know. And I've attempted my part, but the system hasn't worked in the way it's supposed to work," the judge said during the hearing in which the woman was represented by a public defender.
"I think Ms. Lacey has suffered quite a bit already. Sat in jail, you know, the holidays, major holidays," the judge said, dismissing the charge stemming from the landlord-tenant dispute.
For some reason, however, the woman remained in jail for another four days.
Adames told the committee he was concerned she wouldn't appear in court because she was likely to be evicted because of the dispute.
The committee says Adames deprived the woman "of her liberty unjustly and arbitrarily" used his authority.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.