On Tuesday, September 12, 2023, the Supreme Court of New Jersey issued a public censure against Mary F. Thurber, a judge on the Vicinage 2 Superior Court in New Jersey. The order stated that Judge Thurber violated judicial conduct rules by serving as an estate administrator for 13 years while sitting on the bench.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Mary F. Thurber,” with case no. 088547.

The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 1, rule 1.1, Canon 2, rule 2.1, Canon 5, rule 5.8 which states:

A judge shall participate in establishing, maintaining, enforcing, and personally observing, high standards of conduct so that the integrity, impartiality, and independence of the judiciary is preserved.

A judge shall act at all times 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.

A judge shall not serve as an executor, administrator, or other fiduciary.

On January 12, 2023, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct filed a formal complaint against Thurber, charging her with violating New Jersey’s Code of Judicial Conduct. The complaint alleged that Judge Thurber had served as the administrator of an estate for over 13 years while holding a judicial position. Specifically, the complaint cited canons that required judges to uphold high standards of conduct and to avoid impropriety or any appearance thereof. One such canon directly prohibited judges from assuming roles as executors, administrators, or other fiduciaries, except for close family members.

The complaint detailed that Judge Thurber had sought and been granted letters of administration for the McKinley Estate in 1998. In 2021, she retained a law firm to discharge her from her duties as administrator and to appoint a substitute. She received $88,823 from the Bank of America account of the estate before endorsing it over to the law firm. In April 2022, by court order, Judge Thurber was officially discharged from her role as the administrator of the McKinley Estate after providing a final accounting. The Advisory Committee alleged that her over 13-year tenure as the estate’s administrator while an active judge violated the canons outlined in their formal complaint.

In response, Judge Thurber admitted most of the allegations but denied violating any Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Court Rules. She acknowledged that she remained the administrator of the McKinley Estate, but claimed that all administration of the Estate was completed before 2009, and she continued as administrator in name only after that time.

The report states:

“Respondent admits in part the allegations contained in paragraph 10, that she remained the Administrator, but all administration of the Estate was completed before 2009, and respondent continued as Administrator in name only after that time. Respondent in part admits the allegations contained in the paragraph but sought to secure Respondent’s discharge as Administrator and the filing of an accounting.”

The said matter was submitted to the Supreme Court by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct after they approved a consent agreement between Judge Thurber and Disciplinary Counsel. It was agreed that Thurber violated canons requiring judges to maintain high standards of conduct, avoid impropriety, and not serve as an executor or administrator. In light of these foregoing matters, the Supreme Court accepted the consent agreement. In its order, the Court incorporated the consent agreement and formally issued a public censure against Judge Thurber. The censure will now be part of Judge Thurber’s permanent record.

The Disposition states:

“It is ORDERED that Mary F. Thurber, a Judge of the Superior Court, is hereby publicly censured.”

The Judge earned a law degree from Rutgers University School of Law. The Judge’s courtroom is located at 10 Main Street, 1st Floor in Hackensack, and can be reached at +1-201-527-2630. His bio can be found on New Jersey Law Journal.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.