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313 White Horse Pike, Haddon Heights, N.J. 08035
313 White Horse Pike, Haddon Heights, N.J. 08035

A Municipal Court judge from Linden, New Jersey is no longer on the bench after being replaced at a Tuesday evening council meeting.

Judge Louis M. J. DiLeo’s ethics troubles stem from an otherwise routine May 2010 municipal trial. Two counsins stood accused of theft, attempted theft, possession of burglary tools and possession. Judge DiLeo ultimately ruled that both men were guilty on all charges. He then sentenced both men to 180 days in county jail and three consectutive one-year probationary terms; he also imposed fines totaling $2,700.00 on one defendant and $3,100.00 on the other.

The problem? Judge DiLeo conducted the proceedings in a manner that a Superior Court judge later described as a “perversion of justice”.

Details from the Newark Star-Ledger:

In his response to the complaint, DiLeo did not admit to violating any rules but didn’t dispute some of the facts the committee presented.

Yes, the judge says, he did allow a police officer to cross-examine the two defendants. But, he retorts, he was simply “affording the police officer the same questioning opportunity” as the Kirkland cousins, neither of whom had a lawyer present.

And, yes, DiLeo says, he did proceed to trial with no prosecutor in the room. But, he replies, that man left the building without permission.

And, yes, he did question the police officer, the state’s only witness, as well as the defendants. But, he reasons, he was simply acting as a “fact-finder,” trying to understand conflicting testimony.

On appeal from Judge DiLeo’s decision, the cousins were represented by counsel. They were found “not guilty” of possession; the remaining charges were remanded to a different North Jersey municipal court for a new trial. You can read a full copy of the Superior Court Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct’s complaint (click here) as well as Judge DiLeo’s answer (click here) on our website in pdf format.

The advisory committee’s complaint cited numerous alleged procedural and due process violations as well as transgressions against statutory law, case law, the New Jersey Court Rules and canons of judicial conduct.

Of particular concern to the committe was the fact that Judge DiLeo supposedly denied defendants’ request for a public defender.  On appeal, Superior Court Judge Moynihan concluded that, “They [the defendants] wanted a public defender on May 3. The fact that they tried to secure private counsel… does not amount to knowing, voluntary waiver of their right to have a lawyer represent them in a trial that resulted in county jail sentences for each defendant.

The takeaway less from the Linden cousins’ ordeal is that you have a right to counsel in New Jersey when incarceration or loss of a driver’s license could result from your trial. This case demonstrates the risks associated with proceeding unrepresented when your hard earned money, driver’s license, or basic human freedoms are on the line. That’s precisely when you need an advocate by your side who will zealously represent your best interests.

We’re here to help.

Our attorneys represent hundreds of clients in municipal court proceedings across the State of New Jersey. If you or someone you know is facing charges in a New Jeresey Municipal Court for traffic violations, DWI/DUI, theft, possession, driving while suspended, or other alleged criminal or quasi-criminal conduct, contact the Municipal Court defense lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele today.  You can also reach us by telephone (856) 546-1350.


Post Author: Matt Rooney

is a New Jersey attorney, former Superior Court law clerk, and noted commentator who focuses his practice on family law, municipal court defense, and personal injury matters. He was recognized by SJ Magazine as a 2018 “Top Divorce & Family Attorney."