Woodbridge Judge Spencer B. Robbins, who moved to Chatham in 1998 but continued voting from his Woodbridge law office for 12 years, was reappointed to another three-year term as a municipal judge.
Robbins' reappointment was buried in a New Year flurry of resolutions that the council voted on at their reorganization meeting earlier this month. He makes approximately $77,000 in the position, according to a Home News Tribune report.
The trouble came about when it was learned that Robbins, who owns a law practice in Woodbridge, had been voting from his office address since 1998, four years after he was appointed to a judgeship here. He was stopped after Christopher Struben, the Republican candidate for mayor who lost in the 2011 election, complained about Robbins' illegally voting from his Woodbridge law office.
Struben and several town residents demanded that Mayor John McCormac or the town council remove Robbins from the bench. Council Attorney Craig Coughlin said that the council had no power to discipline Robbins.
The Middlesex County Board of Elections unanimously ruled that Robbins was in the wrong, and the matter afterwards was taken up by the state judicial ethics panel.
Their decisions are considered to be confidential, unless a judge is removed from the bench.
It wasn't Robbins' first brush with ethics panels. In 2004, he was admonished by the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) of the NJ Supreme Court. They charged that Robbins had failed to comply with an investigator's request for a grievance filed against him; failed to sign an agreement in lieu of being disciplined; and failed to file a timely answer to a formal ethics complaint.
An admonishment is considered to be the least severe form of discipline that can be meted out to an attorney, according to the DRB report.
Struben also pointed out that Robbins was chairman of the board of directors of Allegiance Bank, a financial institution with which the township does business. Allegiance merged with BCB Community Bank in 2011, and Robbins sits on their board of directors.
Robbins' financial interest in the bank was a conflict of interest, Struben said. The township still holds accounts in the institution.
Robbins was admitted to the bar in New York and New Jersey in 1981. He served as municipal prosecutor in Woodbridge from 1988 to 1994, when he was appointed as a municipal judge. He also serves as a municipal judge in South Plainfield and Sayreville.