Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Trenton, NJ Municipal Judge: "I'm Sick of Y'all!"
"Embattled city municipal court Judge Renee Lamarre Sumners resigned yesterday after she was directed to do so by Superior Court Judge Linda M. Feinberg, a judiciary spokeswoman said. Sumners returned to the city bench Friday after Feinberg ordered her off more than a week ago following revelations the lower judge bounced checks for law license renewal fees, had IRS liens on her house and a warrant for her arrest.
'I’m tired of it, I’m tired of it,' she said. 'My health is being impacted, my family is being impacted, it’s making me sick.' An audibly drained Sumners said her financial troubles began with a diagnosis of cancer in 2000 which has never gone into remission. 'When you are a cancer patient, and you have deductibles and you have medical bills, things snowball,' she said.
The decision to step off the bench for a week was 'mutual' between herself and Feinberg, she claimed, and Sumners had spent last week doing administrative work at the municipal court, she said. Sumners denied her meeting with Feinberg yesterday led to her stepping down.
'The meeting with Judge Feinberg had nothing to do with my resignation,' she said. 'I met with the judge today talking about a homeless initiative for the city of Trenton.'
Feinberg and Sumners met face-to-face yesterday morning, said Winnie Comfort, a spokeswoman for the state judiciary. Comfort did not provide specifics of what was discussed at the meeting.
'All I can tell you is that she was told to step down this morning,' Comfort said.
Sumners agreed to do so and never retook the judgeship Feinberg had restored her to just this past Friday, Comfort said.
'She stepped down, she did not go down to the courthouse or down to the bench,' she said.
Sumners met with Trenton Mayor Tony Mack late yesterday afternoon, and submitted her resignation to him then, according to a statement released by the mayor’s office.
'In order to spare my family, the City Administration and Mercer Vicinage Judiciary any further embarrassment as a result of recent controversies concerning my appointment to the bench, I respectfully request that you accept my resignation as a judge of the Trenton Municipal Court effective immediately,' she wrote.
In the city statement, Mack praised Sumners’ decision.
'Judge Sumners, thank you for your diligent and tireless effort to preserve the integrity of the City of Trenton’s judicial process,' Mack said. 'Your resignation further demonstrates your ability to serve the public’s best interest.'
City Council President George Muschal, a Sumners critic who had voted against her initial appointment and demanded she submit to a required background check, said Sumners’ resignation was the best outcome to the situation. 'Hey, it was (in the) better interest for the city of Trenton to go forward,' he said.
Only the state Supreme Court can remove a municipal judge from office.
The council approved Sumners in late August without a background check, and Sumners ignored demands she submit to one once she took the bench. A check wasn’t conducted until last Thursday, when Feinberg ordered sheriff’s officers to run Sumners’ prints. The nationwide lookup did not reveal any arrests, convictions, or outstanding warrants, the judiciary said.
'As a person, she was a very nice person, but the law is the law, you have to take a background check,' Muschal said. 'This is what the council voted on, so be it.' Muschal, who has been accused by his fellow council members of withholding information he obtained on Sumners, denied he had a hand in forcing the judge to resign.
[Judge] Sumners remains bitter the council demanded she submit to the check. 'No municipal court judge has had to take fingerprints or do a background check, none,' she said. Sumners still has her law license and says she could return to private practice, but is uncertain if she will remain in Trenton. 'I don’t know,' she said. 'I’m sick of y’all.'
Apparently Judge Sumners is not planning a comeback. Then again former Vice-President Nixon had something similar to say after losing the 1960 election to John F. Kennedy and the California Gubernatorial race to Jerry Brown's father. Oh, and Sarah Palin seems to have demonstrated that quitting can be made to work for you.