UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct recently filed a formal complaint against Union County Superior Court Judge Theresa E. Mullen, recommending she be stripped of her position and removed from judicial office because of past misconduct of position, abuse, dishonesty and questionable ethics. To counter, Mullen filed a motion to dismiss or modify the recommendation. Mullen’s motion will be heard at a hearing scheduled for Monday, Sept. 13, before the state Supreme Court.
Mullen has been under fire since 2016 for repeatedly violating a set of judicial rules because of a dispute with the Catholic School her two daughters attended, landing her a formal charge with five ethics violations.
According to judiciary spokesperson MaryAnn Spoto of the Administrative Office of the Courts, the hearing will decide whether Mullen stays or goes, and what happens thereafter.
“On background, she is now entitled to a hearing before the Supreme Court on why she should not be removed from office,” Spoto said on Monday, Aug. 2.
Spoto added that if the Supreme Court thinks she should still be removed from office after the hearing, then she will be removed.
Mullen did not respond to requests by Union County LocalSource for comment. According to Raymond S. Londa of Londa & Londa, previously her legal counsel in this matter, his firm is no longer representing Mullen; his understanding is that Mullen may be representing herself.
The complaint against Mullen is based on her behavior in regard to a 2016 lawsuit filed by her husband, Scott Phillips, in which the family sued St. Theresa School in Kenilworth and the Archdiocese of Newark in order to have their then 13-year-old daughter, Sydney, placed on the boys’ basketball team, because she wanted to play basketball for the school and the girls’ team’s season had been canceled.
The family prevailed, and Sydney was able to play on the boys’ team; however, St. Theresa School proceeded to expel Sydney and her sister, because, according to the school, a rule exists that states that parents who bring the school into a legal matter must remove their children from the school. A letter was sent by the school to Mullen explaining this, but she went to the school with her daughters in February 2017. The resulting confrontation led to the Kenilworth police being called to the school, as Mullen allegedly refused to leave the school’s premises, even after being told, multiple times, that the school would file a trespassing complaint against her, and school officials demanded she be arrested.
The officers involved in the incident testified and said that they would have arrested another parent exhibiting the same behavior, but they did not arrest Mullen because she is a judge and because her husband is a former Kenilworth police captain.
The expulsion was rescinded and Mullen’s daughters were allowed to finish the school year, but they weren’t permitted to enroll for the new school term.
The ACJC determined that Mullen was dishonest in her testimony in the trespassing case, finding that her story “differed greatly” from those of other witnesses, whose accounts were deemed more credible.
The ACJC also found that Mullen had failed to appear for a court-ordered deposition and, when she did appear at a July 26, 2017, deposition, she was inappropriately dressed for the occasion and made use of her position as a judge to refuse to answer a host of questions asked, which obstructed the process.
Mullen later claimed that her position as a judge allowed her to refuse to answer those questions because they were personal, which the court couldn’t support. Mullen also reportedly refused to leave when it came time for her husband’s deposition, even though she has been ordered out of the room.
In another example demonstrating Mullen’s questionable behavior, Anastasia Marchena, who had come before the court during a custody battle with her ex-husband over which Mullen presided, said she felt Mullen behaved unethically in that legal matter when she refused to allow Marchena’s young daughter to travel to see a dying family member.
Marchena wrote a letter to assignment Judge Karen Cassidy on Tuesday, June 29, after many attempts to rectify issues in her legal matter, wanting Mullen removed from her case immediately.
“In June 2020, I filed a motion to relocate to the state of Florida with my underage child. I lost my job in this state due to the pandemic in March 2020 and was offered a job in Florida,” Marchena said in an interview with LocalSource on Saturday, July 31. “Judge Mullen stretched my motion for a whole year, rescheduling it a few times in order to accommodate her own personal legal appearances.
“I have never seen such incompetence in any other courthouse. I have pleaded with Judge Cassidy to interject in my personal case, to no avail. I feel like the courthouse is poorly run. The statistics are poor, judges do not get renewed, most judges have poor reputations, etc. If Judge Cassidy is unable to step in and fix my case, what can I expect for the rest of the litigants?” she asked. “Judge Mullen is barely present in court. She is either out solving her problems, on vacation or just mentally unavailable while physically present, and, because I pointed out her inattentive mistakes in my case, therefore striking a nerve, she turned against me.”
Marchena wrote about the lasting effect Mullen has had on her litigants, thus warranting her undeserving of a position as a judge.
“Your court allowed a woman scorned to come on the bench and decide a litigant’s most important life decisions. Judge Mullen’s actions at her children’s school speak very loud of who she truly is and how she does not deserve this position,” she wrote in the letter dated Tuesday, June 29.