N.J. judge who jailed woman for 23 days for disrespecting him could face 2-month suspension

Posted Oct 24, 2019

A Newark Municipal Court judge is facing a possible suspension after he sent a woman to jail for 23 days following her appearance in front of him for a landlord-tenant dispute because he believed she didn’t respect his authority.

The judge also told the woman she had a “mental condition.”

Linda Lacey spent Christmas and New Year’s in a cell during her three-plus weeks in jail — a period which the judge who put here there, Marvin C. Adames, acknowledged in court was “longer than [she] probably should have” been incarcerated.

That’s according to the findings of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, which decided in August that Adames had failed to comply with the law or “observe high standards of conduct," which reflected poorly on the judiciary.

On Thursday, the committee set a January 2020 hearing date and advised Adames to make any legal arguments as to why he shouldn’t suffer the two-month suspension it recommends.

The committee’s August decision said Adames admitted he abused his power by jailing Lacey on the contempt of court accusation.

Lacey was in court Nov. 17, 2016 after being charged with a disorderly persons offense related to damage to her apartment, the committee wrote.

After seeing Lacey “violently yank” a pen out of a court employee’s hand, Adames told her he was ordering a contempt of court hearing and that while she was in jail he would order a psychological evaluation because she had “some mental condition,” the committee wrote. Lacey was taken to a holding cell but released after she apologized.

A month later, after Lacey’s attorney withdrew from the case, Adames again brought up her conduct at the November hearing and called her 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,” Adames said, according to the committee.

Later in the hearing he ordered her jailed pending a contempt hearing for “just being completely disrespectful in her... her tone, her demeanor, her body language. Just completely disrespecting the authority of the Court and for violating the order that I set forth.”

He set her bail at $10,000 with a $1,000 release option, but she couldn’t pay it and remained in jail. On Dec. 23, Adames declined to have the contempt of court hearing he had scheduled, telling Lacey — who appeared via a video feed from the jail — that she would stay in jail as the psychological evaluation he ordered had still not been performed.

At her next court date Jan. 3, 2017, Adames said the evaluation still hadn’t been done nor the contempt hearing held, but he was releasing her anyway because she had been in custody “longer than [she] probably should have” been, the committee said.

“I’ve attempted my part, but the system hasn’t worked the way it’s supposed to work,” he said. “I think Ms. Lacey has suffered quite a bit already.”

She stayed in jail for another four days before she was released, though it’s not clear why.

After the committee initiated ethics charges against Adames, he admitted through his attorney that he violated her rights to due process, and also violated the law by setting bail and jailing her without a summary judicial finding of contempt of court. He also admitted that jailing her for the psychiatric evaluation violates the civil commitment process and the judicial code of conduct.

Adames told the court he regretted his actions and had completed several trainings and made “efforts to better familiarize himself with the law of contempt."

The committee rejected his argument that the violations didn’t warrant a suspension, saying Adames disregard for Lacey’s rights “demonstrates a lack of integrity and probity.”

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