On Wednesday, March 8, 2023, the Supreme Court of New Jersey permanently barred the former judge of the Superior Court in Union County, New Jersey, Theresa E. Mullen, from holding any judicial office.
The case is entitled “In the matter of Theresa E. Mullen” with case no. 085351.
The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 1, rule 1.1, 1.2, Canon 2, rule 2.1, and Canon 5, rule 5.1(a) which state:
Judges shall participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, and shall personally observe high standards of conduct to preserve the integrity, impartiality, and independence of the judiciary.
Judges shall respect and comply with the law.
Judges shall conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.
Judges shall conduct their extrajudicial activities in a manner that will not demean the judicial office.
In the formal complaint, dated May 1, 2018, the facts of the case against the judge were discussed. Allegedly, the respondent and her husband were involved in a lawsuit against the school where their daughters are attending. This happened because of an incident where the school decided to disband the girl’s basketball team, where one of the respondent’s daughters is currently playing. Furious with the removal of the team, the respondent’s husband filed a lawsuit to compel the school to include their daughter in the boy’s basketball instead.
Following the incident, the school decided to expel the daughters of the respondent in the school using the school’s handbook as a basis. The quoted part of the school’s letter to the respondent states, “If a parent implicates St. Theresa School in a legal matter or names St. Theresa School as a defendant in a civil matter, the parent/guardian will be requested to remove their children immediately from the school.” Despite the expulsion, the respondent refused to follow the school’s decision and bought her daughters along with her to the premises of the school. As a response, the court requested the respondent to leave several times, but the latter refused and insisted that she won’t follow the school’s decision.
The filing states:
“Respondent stated that she did not agree with the expulsion. The letter she received stated the school “requested” her children not come back to STS and she was “denying the school’s request.” Her children were not leaving the school.”
As a result of the incident and the respondent’s refusal to acknowledge the school’s decision, an order from the court was issued on July 11, 2017, instructing the respondent and her husband to appear for depositions. However, the respondent failed to follow the said court order. Moreover, the respondent refused to answer approximately 95% of the questions. On February 28, 2018, the respondent was found guilty of defiant trespass.
The filing continues:
“Mullen remained in the school knowing she was not licensed or privileged to do so after actual notice to leave was communicated to her several times. The State’s witnesses were more credible than Mullen.”
In the 4-count formal complaint, the Disciplinary Counsel charged the respondent with violating the Code of Judicial Conduct. On July 6, 2018, the respondent filed her answer, explaining that the issues that they have raised were not properly addressed by the school and that they had no other alternative but to take legal action against the latter. Moreover, the respondent generally admits to the allegations that the school did send them a letter except for the fact that it is a “request” (not direct). Moreover, the respondent added that only one of their children was advised to not return. Further, on the issue of her defiance to leave the school’s premises, the respondent denied the allegation that she was directed to leave. According to her, she was just instructed to remain on one site.
The filing further states:
“Respondent denies the allegations set forth in Paragraph 20 of the Facts portion of the Formal Complaint and by way of further answer says that Respondent was never advised to leave the premises by Father Joe whose interaction with Respondent was fully recorded by Respondent, but who after further dialogue with STS representatives which included a request that Respondent remains on site until her husband returned did in fact thereafter leave voluntarily.”
In deciding on the appropriate sanction against the respondent, the court stated that the aggravating factors significantly outweigh the mitigating factors in the case. The court stated that the respondent committed multiple violations of the code. As to counts I and II specifically, the respondent broke the law, which is unbecoming and inappropriate for one holding the position of a judge. Moreover, the court stated that the respondent’s conduct and untruthful testimony demonstrate her unfitness for judicial office.
Although the respondent was not reappointed to the judicial office, and in that sense, the decision will have no immediate impact on her status, the court believed that removal would bar her from holding judicial office in the future. So for these reasons, the court decided to permanently bar the respondent from holding judicial office in the state of New Jersey.
The Disposition states:
“It is further ORDERED that Theresa E. Mullen, a former Judge of the Superior Court, is removed from judicial office and is permanently barred from holding judicial office in this State.”
Judge Mullen attended the Albany Law School.
Judge Mullen was a former judge for the Vicinage 12 Superior Court in Union County, New Jersey, Family Division which is located at Union County Courthouse 2 Broad Street Elizabeth, NJ, and can be reached at (908) 659-4600. Her info can be found on ballotpedia.org.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.