The Burlington County Times by Danielle Camilli - November 14, 2010
TRENTON, NJ - A former Mount Laurel municipal court judge, who still sits on the Delanco and Palmyra benches, is facing an ethics complaint that alleges he was partial to the state in a drunken driving case he presided over in 2008. The New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct filed a complaint against Judge Gregory R. McCloskey of Moorestown earlier this month. McCloskey has served in a handful of county towns as an appointed municipal judge over the years. He resigned his position in Mount Laurel at the beginning of this year, according to the complaint. McCloskey did not return a phone call placed last week for comment. The complaint alleged that McCloskey violated the Code of Judicial Conduct when at the end of the second day of a trial, he had a conversation with the municipal prosecutor outside the presence of defense counsel, known as ex parte communication. He engaged in conversation about the case and directed the prosecutor to ask certain questions of a witness concerning issues related to the state's case and critical of the defense, according to the complaint. The defendant and his attorney had left the courtroom when the conversation occurred. They did not learn about the discussion until after McCloskey found the man guilty of driving under the influence and refusing to take a breath test. The conversation, which was captured on the record, was revealed in transcripts the defense ordered in preparation for an appeal. The state Superior Court in Burlington County, hearing the appeal, remanded the case back to McCloskey, allowing the defendant to file a motion for a new trial. The judge denied the new trial, but did acknowledge on the record his part in the "impermissible ex parte" communication, according to the complaint. McCloskey further acknowledged that the conversation "revealed his thought process on salient issues in the case, including issues pertinent to the defense." On appeal, the defendant was granted a new trial before a different municipal judge and prosecutor after the Superior Court found that the ex parte communication denied him his constitutional right to a fair trial. The court also found that the judge's direction to the prosecutor demonstrated "partiality to the state ... and an interest in the outcome of the proceeding. That conduct cannot be permitted," the complaint reads, quoting from the Superior Court ruling. The court referred the matter to the Advisory Committee, which filed the formal complaint. McCloskey, an attorney since 1977, can respond to the complaint and a formal hearing could be held. If the committee finds the complaint is proved by clear and convincing evidence, it could recommend a public reprimand, censure, suspension or removal from the bench. Also, it could recommend that the complaint be dismissed and that no action be taken. Danielle Camilli can be reached at 609-267-7586 or dcamilli@phillyBurbs.com.