Judges Who Dined With Accused Felon Say They Broke No Ethics Strictures
Two New Jersey judges who admittedly fraternized with a government official facing indictment on official corruption charges deny that they acted unethically.
Judges Raymond Reddin and Gerald Keegan admitted attending weekly church group dinners and evening masses with Anthony Ardis, a former Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission official, for two years after Ardis' indictment in 2011.
But Reddin, a Passaic County Superior Court judge, and Keegan, a Paterson municipal judge, both denied purposefully violating the code of judicial conduct. Reddin's response to the ethics charges was filed Tuesday and Keegan's on Monday.
Ardis, a former PVSC commissioner and longtime employee, has been friends with Reddin since childhood and with Keegan for the past 25 years. All three are parishioners at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Paterson.
About 13 years ago, Reddin helped form Bartimeus Family, a group focused on healing and dedicated to Monsignor Mark Giordani, who had been diagnosed with cancer. The group, which included Keegan and Ardis, began gathering every Thursday for dinner at various restaurants in Passaic County, followed by evening mass.
Giordani recovered but the group continued to meet. Attendance typically ranges from 15 to 30 people.
Reddin, Keegan and Ardis continued attending even after the June 2011 indictment of Ardis, who at the time was director of management services, board secretary and chief ethics liaison officer for the PVSC, a state agency that manages wastewater processing for four counties.
Ardis was charged with official misconduct and other crimes for allegedly directing staff workers, while on the clock, to perform various home improvement tasks at his mother's and girlfriend's homes.
In a pair of Sept. 17 complaints, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct said the judges' socializing with Ardis at public eateries "created an appearance of impropriety that had the potential to weaken public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary."
Reddin, in particular, showed a lapse of judgment because he sat, and still sits, in the Criminal Part in the same vicinage in which Ardis' charges are pending, the ACJC said.
Both admitted they knew that Ardis had been arrested and indicted and continued to dine with him on Thursday evenings, though they balked at the ACJC's contention that the criminal matter was "highly publicized."
Reddin "fully admits that he routinely dined with Ardis in public restaurants and attended Mass" but "denies any allegation or contention that he knowingly or intentionally engaged in any conduct which demeans his Judicial office or any conduct knowingly or with the intent to violate the Code of Judicial Conduct."
Keegan similarly denied "any allegations, express or implied, that he intended to demean the Office of the Judiciary" and asked the ACJC to "note his unblemished record as both a lawyer and a judge, and the high regard he holds among his professional colleagues."
The judges are charged with violating Canon 1 (requiring judges to observe high standards of conduct to preserve the integrity and independence of the judiciary); Canon 2A (requiring they respect and comply with the law and act in a manner promoting public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary); and Canon 5A(2) (requiring that extrajudicial activities be conducted so as not to demean judicial office).
Reddin is represented by his son, Raymond B. Reddin, of Piro, Zinna, Cifelli, Paris & Genitempo in Nutley.
Neither returned a call Wednesday.
The younger Reddin previously told the Law Journal that legal matters never were discussed at the gatherings. He declined to address whether his father still attends the meetings.
Keegan, a Woodland Park solo and one of Paterson's four municipal judges, and his lawyer, Paterson solo Clark Cornwell III, did not return a call Wednesday.
Indicted along with Ardis were Kevin Keogh, superintendent for special services, and Chester Mazza, assistant superintendent for special services. All three were terminated from the PVSC when charges were filed.
Keogh and Mazza pleaded guilty. Ardis' charges are pending, with a trial date scheduled for Dec. 2.