A Judge’s Dishonorable Friends
Two New Jersey judges, Raymond Reddin and Gerald Keegan, are the subject of ethics complaints due to the company they allegedly keep.
Anthony Ardis, a former official Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, was indicted by a state grand jury in 2011 for alleged misconduct and various crimes such as directing staff workers to do personal work for him. Mr. Ardis is also friends with the two aforesaid judges.
Judge Reddin is a childhood friend of Mr. Ardis and Judge Keegan has been his friend for some twenty-five (25) years. The three (3) men are members of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in PatersonNew Jersey. In addition, they founded what appears to be a healing ministry of the Cathedral called Bartimaeus Family which was inspired by the battle of cancer suffered by Monsignor Mark Giordani. The three (3) men would have dinner and attend Mass at the Cathedral each Thursday along with as many as thirty (30) other people.
Despite the indictment of Ardis, the two (2) judges continued participating with Bartimaeus Family while simultaneously sitting as judges in the same Court district as indicted Mr. Ardis, and therein lays the rub when it comes to members of the judiciary. The New Jersey Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct alleged that the judges’ continued attendance at meetings of Bartimaeus Family with Mr. Ardis created an appearance of impropriety and had concerns that the integrity of the judiciary would, therefore, be compromised. Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Conflict, which requires judges to maintain high standards of conduct, as well as Canon 2A, which requires judges not to take an action which compromises the confidence and integrity in the judiciary, and Canon 5A(2), which requires a judge’s extrajudicial activities not demean the judicial office, were all citied to justify the ethics complaints about the judges.
This matter is still developing as the criminal case against Mr. Ardis is still ongoing and the judges will presumably respond to the allegations made against them. Of course, there is denial of impropriety all around and, in fact, Judge Reddin has been a highly rated jurist in the past.
This situation illustrates the predicament in which judges often find themselves. In order to remain compliant with the expectations to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, it would seem that judges must choose between their position and things that are potentially innocent and innocuous like maintaining contact with a lifelong friend or attending a church or community group which may happen to also have someone of questionable repute among its membership. Does a judge have to give up friendships? Does the judge endorse his friend’s or the other member’s conduct? Indeed, does he even know the member or about his conduct? Perhaps not, but situations such as the one described above make it clear that a judge must remain ever vigilant, perhaps even to the point of avoiding public contact with certain people, in order to ensure full compliance with the expectations upon them and their office, including the codes of conduct applicable to their jurisdictions.