A former New Jersey judge once charged with helping her then-boyfriend evade police seven years ago was suspended for three months Thursday by a split state Supreme Court in a largely symbolic ruling.
Carlia Brady had initially faced removal as a judge in state Superior Court after a state panel on judicial conduct recommended that sanction last fall, but the Supreme Court declined to take that step this spring. Her term has since expired and she was not reappointed.
At a hearing in late April, Brady, who sat in Middlesex County and was the state’s first Filipino American to become a Superior Court judge, told justices she was under extreme emotional distress at the time and shouldn’t be disciplined.
In Thursday’s decision, two justices agreed with her. Three others, however, determined a suspension was appropriate. Another justice concurred with the majority but wrote that she should be removed.
Contacted through attorney Tracey Hinson, who represents Brady in her pending lawsuit against Woodbridge Township police stemming from the same incident, Brady said in an email that one of the dissenting opinions recognized “the admitted perjured testimony and significant misconduct committed by members of the Woodbridge Police Department which triggered a misguided criminal prosecution on evidence so thin and lacking in substance, that the Appellate division affirmed the dismissal of one charge and the trial court dismissed the two remaining charges.
“I am thankful this ordeal is over,” she said.
At the April hearing, a representative from the state judicial conduct panel argued that removal was still warranted because Brady gave police “intentionally vague” information about the whereabouts of Jason Prontnicki, who was being sought in an armed robbery investigation.
Prontnicki is serving a state prison term for robbery and weapons offenses.
Brady argued that she left specific information in voicemails to police that were later altered or destroyed, a contention the police department has denied.
Brady added during the hearing that she was under strain because of the relationship unraveling at the same time she believed she was pregnant with Prontnicki’s child, and that she feared for her safety.
The charges against Brady — official misconduct and hindering — were eventually dropped in 2018 and Brady was reinstated to the bench, but during the ongoing disciplinary case, her seven-year judicial term expired in April and she was not reappointed.
The court’s majority disagreed with Brady’s version of the incident, writing Thursday that she “acted not at the direction of the police or because she feared harm, but in the hope that she could assist Prontnicki and preserve their relationship while maintaining her judicial career.”
Justice Faustino Fernandez-Vina concurred but went further, writing that the analysis “supports removal from the bench beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In a dissent, Justice Barry Albin called the criminal prosecution of Brady “misguided” and said her actions “should not be viewed from the sterile, 20/20 perspective of hindsight, but rather from that of a vulnerable human being, fatigued and frightened, in the grip of overwhelming stress.”
Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, also dissenting, said more credence should have been given to Brady’s account of her dealings with police and that she was “the victim of a police investigation run amok.”
The imposition of a three-month suspension “is essentially a vindication compared to what they were seeking,” said Robert Flanagan, an attorney who represented Brady during part of the disciplinary process.