Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Identity of rebuked Hunterdon County Family Part judge disclosed.

The Appellate Division's practice is to not identify, in its written opinions, trial judges whose orders are reversed.  The Division's opinions, however, frequently identify trial judges whose opinions are affirmed.  This unfortunate practice makes it difficult for members of the public to identify trial judges who have a much higher than average reversal rate.

The Appellate Division's December 30, 2016 opinion in a domestic violence case captioned T.G. v. W.C., Docket No. A-5177-14T3 is consistent with the practice. In this case, Appellate Judges Carmen Messano and Michael A. Guadagno harshly rebuked a Hunterdon County Family Court judge who entered a final restraining order (FRO) against a man identified only by his initials W.C.  The opinion criticizes the trial judge for his "troubling statements," "the haphazard manner in which the hearing was conducted" and "erroneous information" given to W.C. about how his testimony would be used.  The details regarding the judge's improper statements and conduct are set forth in the opinion at the link above.

On December 30, 2016, I submitted a records request to the Appellate Division seeking the name of the trial judge.  (Note that the judiciary is not subject to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and that record requests need to be submitted according to the judiciary's records access procedure.)  I was informed today by Appellate Division Deputy Clerk John Grant that the trial judge was the Hon. Bradford M. Bury.  According to a January 30, 2013 Patch article, "Watchung, Green Brook Men Nominated for Legislative Positions," Bury hails from Watchung and was appointed by Governor Christie in 2013 and will up for tenure consideration in 2020.  Bury has served as an assistant prosecutor in both Union and Morris Counties.