Judge’ s comments on sex offenders and bestiality incident could endanger reappointment

A Burlington County Superior Court Judge could find comments he made at trial factoring into his reappointment next year.

Judge James J. Morley is up for reappointment in 2010, but New Jersey State Bar Association President Allen Etish said that his recent comments — at the sentencing of a 45-year-old teacher's aide for having sex with a 16-year-old student and before dismissing animal cruelty charges against a former police officer for allegedly performing sex acts with calves — may come up when Morley comes up for review by the Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee (JPAC), which Etish sits on.

"When we consider a tenure application for JPAC, issues with morality, controversy and inappropriate comments are all parts of the process," said Etish.

During the sentencing on Monday of the teacher's aide, Donna Goebel, Morley said "But for the defendant's status, there would be no crime here (because) the relationship was entirely consensual," according to the Courier-Post. He also noted that "It's possible she just wanted to be around someone who was nice to her and got caught up in something she shouldn't have."

Morley made national headlines last month when he threw out animal cruelty charges against suspended Moorestown Police Officer Robert Melia – who is facing much more serious charges of assaulting three young girls – because it was unclear if the sexual contact he engaged in with calves "tormented" or "puzzled" them.

"If the cow had the cognitive ability to form thought and speak, would it say, 'Where's the milk? I'm not getting any milk,'" he said, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

Etish said he "wouldn't want to comment on the efficacy of those statements… But if somebody makes inappropriate comments and they deal with morality and sex with minors, I think that's a real hot button."

"I just think it's inappropriate, and just shows poor temperament," said Etish. "If I were him and was handling that kind of case I don't think I'd make any of those comments."

Judge’ s comments on sex offenders and bestiality incident could endanger reappointment