Linden Municipal Court Judge’s Conduct Under Review

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LINDEN – A state committee that oversees judicial conduct filed a formal complaint against a Linden municipal court judge on Monday as a result of his actions during a 2010 trial of two men charged with theft for allegedly trying to remove the wheel from a car.

Judge Louis M.J. DiLeo presided over the trial of Anthony and Wendell Kirkland on May 12, 2010. No attorneys were present for the proceeding, which lasted less than an hour. The only individuals to participate were DiLeo, the two defendants and the arresting police officer, according to the complaint.

DiLeo conducted the direct examination of the arresting officer and questioned Anthony Kirkland after the defendant testified on his own behalf, according to the complaint. DiLeo found both defendants guilty and sentenced them to six months in county jail and several thousand dollars in fines.

Anthony and Wendell Kirkland appealed their convictions to Union County Superior Court. On March 4, Judge Scott Moynihan overturned DiLeo’s verdict and ordered a new trial.

Moynihan characterized the original trial as a “perversion of justice” and cited DiLeo’s denial of the defendants’ request for a public defender as the “most glaring error” that caused him to set aside the verdict. Moynihan also criticized DiLeo for acting as a prosecutor would; the municipal court judge’s “actions transformed the role of the court from a neutral and detached magistrate and evoked the specter of the backwater ‘judge, jury and executioner’ figure that has never had any place in American jurisprudence,” Moynihan said.

DiLeo has 20 days from the date of filing to respond to the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct complaint; the committee will then convene a hearing and make a recommendation to the state Supreme Court. Possible outcomes include a public reprimand, censure, suspension or removal from the bench, or dismissal of the complaint against the judge.

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