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Thornton Replacing Lawson as Monmouth Assignment Judge

Assignment Judge Lawrence M. Lawson administering the Oath of Office to Freeholder Gary Rich, January 2012.

Assignment Judge Lawrence M. Lawson administering the Oath of Office to Freeholder Gary Rich, January 2012.

New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner announced yesterday that Judge Lisa P. Thornton will replace Judge Lawrence M. Lawson as the Assignment Judge of the Monmouth County Vicinage, effective September 1, 2014.

Lawson, who has served on the bench since 1987 and as Assignment Judge since 1993, is retiring three years before he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Thornton will be the first female African-American Assignment Judge in the history of the New Jersey Court. She served as Rabner’s Chief of Staff when he was New Jersey’s Attorney General under Governor Jon Corzine.

A resident of Neptune, Thornton was appointed to the Court by Corzine in 2008. She earned her law degree from Rutgers-Newark in 1992 while she was employed by Prudential Financial. She was the Municipal Court Judge of Neptune Township from January of 1999 through December 2001. In 2002 Thornton was named special deputy commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance where she served until joining Corzine’s office as senior associate counsel in January of 2006 where she served until joining Rabner in the Attorney General’s Office in September of 2006.

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Posted: July 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Monmouth County, Monmouth County Court, NJ Judiciary | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Judge deems Belmar’s post-Sandy beachfront redevelopment plan unreasonable, invalid

Judge deems Belmar’s post-Sandy beachfront redevelopment plan unreasonable, invalid (via NJ.com)

BELMAR – The borough’s efforts to recover from Hurricane Sandy have been mired in controversy and legal battles. And last week, a Monmouth County Superior Court judge dealt yet another blow to the recovery process. In April 2013, the Borough Council…

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Posted: May 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Belmar | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Judge deems Belmar’s post-Sandy beachfront redevelopment plan unreasonable, invalid

Judge Lawson: Freeholder Lillian Burry had no conflict of interest regarding Lucas farm vote

Judge Lawrence M. Lawson

Judge Lawrence M. Lawson

Monmouth County Assignment Judge Lawrence M. Lawson has ruled that “no rational fact-finder could find a conflict of interest” in Freeholder Lillian Burry’s March 2013 vote to fund the purchase of the development rights to former Manalapan Mayor Andrew Lucas’s Burke Farm.

In an opinion dated January 8, Lawson said that Burry did not have a conflict of interest, “real or apparent,” “potential” or “actual” in the controversial farmland preservation purchase that has been a political football in Monmouth County and Manalapan since 2010.

In a Summary Judgment, Lawson dismissed the suit with prejudice, brought by Holmdel attorney Lawrence Luttrell, a Democratic freeholder candidate at the time that he, his wife and mother-in-law formed R.A.G.E (Residents Against Government Exploitation), a non-profit corporation, for the sole purpose of bringing suit against Monmouth County over Burry’s vote on the Lucas farm deal.

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Posted: January 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Asbury Park Press Editorial Board Needs A Fact Checker

No news. Empty newsstands stored in the Asbury Park Press's empty parking lot in Neptune.

No news. Empty newsstands stored in the Asbury Park Press’s empty parking lot in Neptune.

In their editorial posted last evening, the Asbury Park Press Editorial Board The Neptune Nudniks lecture New York City voters on character and morality.

As if they are an authority on character and morality and have readers from New York!  Maybe they are hoping some bennies here for the weekend will read their paper instead of Greg’s List.

The Nudnik’s homily bemoans the fact that former Congressman Anthony Weiner and former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer are doing very well in the polls in their campaigns for municipal office in New York.

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Posted: July 13th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Asbury Park Press, Neptune Nudniks, NJ Media, Opinion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Fire The Asbury Park Press Editorial Board

For the last several years this site has derided the Asbury Park Press Editorial Board Neptune Nudniks for their ignorance of the facts and processes about which they opine, and for their religious bigotry.

The Nudniks’ editorial today about the controversy surrounding the emails exchanged between Middletown Library Director Susan O’Neal and Democratic candidate for Middletown Township Committee Linda Baum is a firing offense.  They apparently didn’t even read or comprehend their own reporter’s article about the issue, before publishing their ignorant opinion.

APP reporter Suzanne Cervenka reported the story accurately on July 4.  Middletown Township Committeeman Tony Fiore made an OPRA request for emails between O’Neal and Baum.  Baum took the issue to Court, arguing that the emails were private, had nothing to do with library operations and that she in no way acted as an agent of the library.  Judge Lawrence M. Lawson ruled that, as a matter of law, the emails were government documents subject to OPRA and ordered them released.

In their editorial, the Nudniks said that Fiore took the matter to Court when in fact Baum took the matter to Court.  They said Lawson should have refused to hear the matter.  If Lawson kept the Court out of it, the emails would have been released without Baum being heard on the matter.  The Nudniks said Fiore was being petty for following his instincts that O’Neal was undermining the public’s oversight of the $4.6 million dollar operation she directs.

Monmouth and Ocean County citizens deserve better from their largest newspaper/news site.  We’ve deserved better for a long time. We should demand better.

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Posted: July 10th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Asbury Park Press, Neptune Nudniks, NJ Media, Opinion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Middletown Library Director and Democratic Committee Candidate Worked Together To Undermine Oversight, Raise Funds For Democratic Campaign

State Senator Barbara Buono and Linda Baum, Democratic candidate for Middletown Township Committee, 8/25/12 facebook photo

State Senator Barbara Buono and Linda Baum, Democratic candidate for Middletown Township Committee, 8/25/12 facebook photo

Middletown Library Director Susan O’Neal submitted incomplete and haphazardly organized emails between herself and Linda Baum, a past and present Democratic candidate for Middletown Township Committee, in response to Judge Lawrence M. Lawson’s ruling last week that the emails are government documents subject to the New Jersey Open Public Records Act.

MMM received the 298 pages of emails which include numerous duplicates, many truncated pages that cannot be fully read and omit relevant attachments, late this morning from Middletown Township via OPRA request.  The emails can be viewed via Scribd at the end of this post.

The emails reveal a ongoing endeavor between O’Neal and Baum to undermine the oversight of the library by its Board of Trustees and the Township Committee.  Additionally, Baum and O’Neal planned to use the library to forward the political objectives, including political fundraising, of Baum and the Middletown Democrats.  Middletown Democratic Chairman Don Watson was copied on several of the emails.

In his ruling dated July 1 denying Baum’s motion to thwart the release of the emails requested by Middletown Clerk Heidi Brunt on behalf of Township Committeeman and Library Trustee Tony Fiore, Lawson wrote that Baum argued the emails have “absolutely nothing to do with the official business of the library” and do not relate to public operations.

Lawson wrote that “Baum argues that she has no relationship with the Library, nor is she an agent of the library in any respect.”

The emails reveal otherwise.

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Posted: July 8th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: 2013 Election, Middletown, Middletown Democrats, Middletown Library, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Court | Tags: , , , , , , , | 27 Comments »

Emails Between Middletown Library Director and Democratic Candidate Will Be Released

Linda Baum trying to convince voters to support her last summer. facebook photo

Linda Baum trying to convince voters to support her last summer. facebook photo

Linda Baum, a past and present Democratic candidate for Middletown Township Committee, presents herself as an advocate of open government and transparency. She even wrote an article on her campaign website about how citizens can made Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests.

Yet, when it comes to her own email correspondence with Middletown Library Director Susan O’Neal, Baum is far from open and transparent. She sued the Library Board of Trustees and Township Clerk Heidi Brunt to prevent her emails from being released under an OPRA request made by Brunt on behalf of Township Committeeman Tony Fiore. Fiore is the Township Committee’s representative on the Library Board.

Judge Lawrence M. Lawson ruled on Monday that Baum’s emails with O’Neal are government records and must be released per the OPRA request. Lawson’s decision can be viewed here.

Baum argued that the emails were private, had nothing to do with Library operations, and could be used against her politically.

Fiore asked Brunt to file OPRA requests for the emails that O’Neal exchanged with Baum and Melanie Elmiger from January 2012 and May 15, 2013 when it became apparent that Baum and Elmiger had information about Library business that had only been discussed in executive sessions and was not yet public.

“I look forward to seeing the emails that Linda Baum attempted to illegally block from the public,” Fiore said, “It is a shame that her frivolous lawsuit will cost the taxpayers of Middletown and the Middletown Public Library thousands of dollars that could have been used for other purposes.”

Posted: July 5th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Middletown, Middletown Democrats, Middletown Library | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments »

Birdsall Engineering’s Assets Seized

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has seized the assets of Birdsall Services Group, the Eatontown based  engineering and consulting firm that does did business with Monmouth County and many government entities throughout the state, according to a Star Ledger report on NJ.com.

The firm and seven of it’s executives, including former CEO Howard Birdsall, were indicted on felony pay to play charges on Tuesday.  The indictments allege that the firm and the executives skirted New Jersey’s ELEC regulations by having employees make political contributions below the disclosure threashold, $300, and later reimbursed the employees through bonuses. The scheme enabled the firm to accept government contracts they would have been disqualified for had the company made the political donations directly to the candidates or committees receiving the funds.

Monmouth County Assignment Judge Lawrence M. Lawson signed the order authorizing the state to seize all of the firms assests and to retain the property as evidence in a criminal proceeding subject to permanent forfeiture.

Posted: March 27th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Birdsall Engineering, Crime and Punishment | Tags: , , | 14 Comments »

Oxley’s confimed by Senate

Photo credit: Scarcini, Hollenbeck

Photo credit: Scarcini, Hollenbeck

Former Monmouth County Sheriff Joe Oxley’s nomination to the Superior Court was confirmed by the State Senate this afternoon after having been unanimously approved by the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee earlier in the day.

Four of the other nominees confirmed today will be joining Oxley on the Monmouth County bench.  Angela White Dalton of Howell, a former Township Councilwoman, Katie A. Gummer of Rumson,  Arnold L. Natali, Jr of Little Silver and Mara E. Zazzali-Hogan of Shrewsbury are each expected to be confirmed by the Senate today.  Zazzali-Hogan is the daughter of former NJ Chief Justice James R. Zazzali.  Zazzali was Chief Justice for seven months, October 2006 until his mandatory retirement in June of 2007,  after being nominated for the top post by Governor Corzine.  He became an Associate Justice in June of 2000.

Monmouth County Assignment Judge Lawrence M. Lawson told MMM last December that the Court has been operating with six vacancies.  Kathy Sheedy of Cream Ridge was nominated by Governor Christie on Monday to fill the final vacancy.

Lawson was not available when MMM called this afternoon to ask what the assignments will be for the new judges.

Monmouth County Senators Jennifer Beck and Joe Kyrillos issued the following statement praising the New Jersey Senate’s confirmation of five Monmouth County residents to be judges of the Superior Court:

 

            “Monmouth County, like counties across the state, has had a number of judicial vacancies that have caused backlogs in our court system. We are pleased that the New Jersey Senate has finally taken action to confirm qualified nominees. By filling judicial vacancies, we can ensure that all kinds of legal proceedings, from criminal trials to divorce proceedings, can be heard in court in a timely manner.”

UPDATE and CORRECTION 2/8/13

Judge Lawson told MMM this afternoon that despite his Monmouth County residence, Natali will be assigned to the Middlesex County Vicinage. If Sheedy is confirmed by the Senate, the Monmouth Court will still have a vacancy.

A second vacancy will occur if Judge David F. Bauman is confirmed as an Associate Justice of the State Supreme Court.  Bauman and Board of Public Utilities President Robert Hanna were nominated to the Supreme Court by Governor Christie on December 10, 2012.   Senate President Steve Sweeney said this week that he wouldn’t be rushed into holding confirmation hearings for the two Supreme Court nominations.

Lawson said that the new Monmouth Judges will be assigned in either Family Court or Civil Court.  He has yet to determine who will be assigned where.

Posted: February 7th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Joe Oxley, Monmouth County Court | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Judicial Shuffle At Monmouth County Court

Governor Christie’s nomination of Judge David F. Bauman to the State Supreme Court has prompted a mid-term reassignment of the Superior Court Judges in Monmouth County.

Assignment Judge Lawrence M. Lawson told MMM that effective January 2, 2013 Judge Paul Escandon is transfered from Family Court to Civil Court, Judge Honora O’Brien Kilgallen will move from Civil Court to Criminal Court, Judge Linda Grasso-Jones will switch from hearing Civil matters to Family matters, and Judge James J. McGann will transfer from Civil Court to Criminal Court hearing Juvenile cases.  Judge Leslie-Ann M. Justus will remain in Family Court and take over Escandon’s calendar.

MMM called Lawson for comment on a New York Post story over the weekend that said Escandon would not be hearing divorce cases “after a months-long campaign by women who say he systematically cheated them from the bench.” Lawson said the Post story was a “rehash.” Escandon has not been hearing new divorces, rather, he has been presiding over non-matrimonial cases and post-Judgment matters in Family Court, since July.

Escandon’s July reassignment was caused by Judge Michael Guadagno’s elevation to the Appellate Court and these recent reassignments are the result of Bauman’s anticipated elevation to the Supreme Court, according to Lawson.

Lawson said that the Monmouth County Vicinage currently has six vacancies with a seventh coming if Bauman is confirmed a Supreme Court Associate Justice by the State Senate.  There are four pending Judicial nominations for Monmouth County pending before the Senate.

Escandon’s tenure on the Family Court bench has been a subject of controversy since May when former Long Branch resident Rachel Alintoff complained to Governor Christie at at Town Hall Meeting in Garfield about Escandon’s rulings, one of which had been overturned on appeal, in her divorce case.  Since then, a group of divorce litigants, mostly women, have been holding periodic protests about Escandon at the Monmouth County Court House and the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct has initiated an investigation into Escandon based upon Alintoff’s complaints.

Posted: December 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Monmouth County, Monmouth County Court, NJ Courts, NJ Judiciary | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »