On Tuesday, May 16, 2023, the Supreme Court of New Jersey publicly reprimanded Michael Jon Kassel, a judge on the Vicinage Four Superior Court, for his lack of fundamental comprehension regarding family law.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Michael Jon Kasse,” with case no. 088095.

The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 1, rule 1.1 and Canon 2, rule 2.1, Canon 3, rule 3.2 and 3.4 which states:

Requires judges to participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, and to personally observe, high standards of conduct so that the integrity, impartiality, and independence of the judiciary are preserved.

Requires judges to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

Requires judges to maintain professional competence in the performance of their judicial duties.

Requires judges to maintain order and decorum in judicial proceedings.

On April 11, 2023, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct recommended to the Supreme Court of New Jersey the public reprimand of the respondent after admitting his ignorance of family law.

A formal complaint was lodged on April 19, 2022, accusing the respondent of various instances of improper conduct. The complaint highlighted four specific allegations, all stemming from the judge’s behavior during virtual appearances. Firstly, it was claimed that the judge failed to don his judicial robes while engaging in these proceedings, and additionally, he has observed with his legs propped up on the desk in front of the involved parties. Moreover, the complaint contended that the respondent exhibited a fundamental lack of comprehension regarding family law, neglected to thoroughly review the submissions presented by the parties, failed to maintain appropriate order and decorum, and displayed a bias that rendered his withdrawal from the case necessary.

The report states:

“The respondent when addressing the issue of parenting the time during a virtual court proceeding, to the litigants and their counsel that he “knew very little the applicable laws” having not served in the Family Division for two decades and having removed that which he may have from his mind. Respondent compared his involvement in the matter before him to that of a cardiologist seeing his first patient. Finally, Respondent remarked that he had not read all of the documents and did not understand which he had read but agreed to hear the matter if counsel would ‘ ‘walk [him] through their issues step by step” and “treat [him] like I’m a ninth grader in high school.”

The report continues:

“Counts three and four of the complaint included the respondent’s prior professional association with the defense counsel thereby creating a conflict of interest. While count four includes the judge’s adjournment of the matter based solely on the respondent’s impression that the plaintiff’s counsel had an unstated concern about the respondent’s potential partiality for defense counsel given the latter’s involvement in the respondent’s drunk driving case.

On April 27, 2022, the respondent filed a verified answer admitting that his comments concerning his lack of experience in the Family Division indeed failed to maintain the high standards required of judges and failed to promote public confidence in the judiciary.”

The report further states:

“The committee stated that the respondent’s remarks as set forth in count one constitute a complete departure from the ethical standards to which all judges must adhere, as they undermine the integrity of the Judiciary and the judicial process, and trivialize the parties’ legitimate interests in seeking redress with the court. Moreover, the respondent’s unfamiliarity with the applicable precedent and statutory law governing family part matters, failure to read in full the parties’ moving papers, and professed inability to understand that which he had read irretrievably diminished the efficacy of the judicial office.

For count three, the committee mentioned that given the intervening passage of time and the absence of any evidence in the record indicating that the respondent maintained an ongoing professional or personal relationship with defense counsel, the committee recommended the dismissal of the said charge. And lastly, for count four the court argued that the respondent, contrary to his earlier denial of a conflict or its appearance gave credence to an inference of partiality he raised, and thereby undermined his determination that no conflict or appearance of one existed.”

In consideration of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct’s recommendation of discipline, and the respondent’s acceptance of the findings and recommendation of the same, having waived his right to the issuance of an order to show cause and a hearing before the Supreme Court, the latter decided to publicly reprimand the respondent.

The Disposition states:

“It is ORDERED that the findings and recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct are adopted and Michael Jon Kassel, a Judge of the Superior Court, is hereby publicly reprimanded.”

Judge Kassel’s courtroom is located at 71 Monument St, Freehold, New Jersey 07728, and can be reached at (732) 677-4300. His info can be found on ballotpedia.org.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.