Panel urges judge’s removal over daughter’s school dispute
A state ethics panel on Thursday recommended that a judge be removed from the bench over her conduct in a dispute with her daughter’s school.
The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct wrote that state Superior Court Judge Theresa Mullen was convicted of defiant trespass for an incident at St. Theresa School in Kenilworth in 2017 and later testified dishonestly about it.
The dispute centered on an attempt by one of Mullen’s daughters to play on the boys basketball team at the school, which didn’t field a girls team. Mullen’s husband eventually sued the school.
Citing policy regarding lawsuits, school officials asked the couple to remove their two daughters from the school, prompting the confrontation at the school on Feb. 2, 2017, according to the panel’s report.
Mullen has previously denied the allegations and said in a filing to the panel that the school’s actions were an attempt to harass and intimidate her and her family.
While Thursday’s report conceded that Mullen’s actions “sprang out of her parental feeling and emotions,” it contended the judge’s “demonstrable and pervasive dishonesty” when testifying at her defiant trespass trial and in front of the ethics panel “have irreparably compromised her integrity and that of the judicial office she is entrusted to hold.”
An attorney representing Mullen declined to comment Thursday. Mullen will have an opportunity to file a response to the panel’s recommendation.
Mullen could become the second New Jersey judge in recent years to be removed from the bench, the most severe form of sanction. Last year, the Supreme Court removed state Superior Court Judge John Russo Jr., who had suggested that a woman seeking a restraining order could “close your legs” to prevent a sexual assault and later joked about the comment with subordinates.
In 2019, retired Judge James Troiano stepped down from a temporary assignment after he faced criticism for declining to order a 16-year-old rape suspect tried in adult court because the youth came “from a good family.”