“Judge-Shopping”: Don’t Do It

Goldfarb v. Solimine, 460 N.J. Super. 22 (App. Div. 2019). Everyone has their favorite judge(s) before whom they would prefer to try a case. In this case, “a defense attorney, in an ex parte communication, sought [a particular] judge’s assignment to the case, and the judge responded by specifically requesting the assignment from the presiding judge.” The requesting judge, a longtime member of the bench, got the assignment.

Plaintiff learned of these events and sought to recuse the judge. Recusal was denied. After trial, plaintiff appealed, renewing his argument on that issue, as well as on issues relating to the trial (the defense cross-appealed, too).

Today, in an opinion by Judge Ostrer, the Appellate Division condemned the “judge-shopping” that had occurred, finding that it had created an appearance of impropriety. The panel upheld the jury’s finding on liability, and re-determined other issues upon which the Law Division judge had ruled, since that judge’s participation was improper.

All lawyers who try cases should read this opinion. The four-word summary is “Judge-shopping: don’t do it.”