Ex-judge once charged with hindering police is suspended

Woman gave police ‘intentionally vague’ information about her then-boyfriend

By David Porter
Associated Press

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.

At the April hearing, a representative from the state judicial conduct panel argued that removal was still warranted because Brady gave Woodbridge Township 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 sued the township and several officers last year.

“I have never changed that story and I never will change that story,” she said in April.

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 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 with the majority’s opinion but wrote that its 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.”

In a separate dissent, Justice Jaynee LaVecchia said more credence should have been given to Brady’s account of her dealings with police.

“A fair reading of the record reveals that Judge Brady was the victim of a police investigation run amok — an investigation that was built on an unfounded assumption and that cast aside inconvenient facts,” LaVecchia wrote.

Brady represented herself in the disciplinary hearing. Through an attorney representing her in her suit against Woodbridge Township police, she didn’t immediately comment on the ruling Thursday.