In an unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division has rejected the appeal of Judge Francine Schott, a Superior Court trial judge. Judge Schott, who sits in Essex County, claimed that the court discriminated against her on the basis of gender and retaliated against her when she complained, allegedly in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination [LAD]. The New Jersey courts have a policy of occasionally transferring judges among the court's various divisions: civil, criminal, and family. Transfers are made by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, with input from the Administrative Office of the Courts and local assignment judges. They can be made for a variety of reasons, including the manpower needs of the court at a particular point in time.
Judge Schott's interest was in being a respected jurist who handled civil cases; her complaint stemmed from a reassignment to what she perceived as the less desirable criminal division. Upon transfer, she also lost the largely ceremonial title of Executive Judge. Male judges, she claimed, were treated better, and other female judges from Essex County filed affidavits supporting Judge Schott's charges.
As might be expected, the parties were represented by experienced and capable employment counsel.
The trial judge dismissed Judge Schott's complaint, finding that she had not alleged an “adverse employment action” as is required to prove a LAD claim. The Appellate Division affirmed, finding that her transfer to the Criminal Division was a lateral move, not a demotion. The court also found that her loss of the Executive Judge title “had no impact on tangible benefits or opportunities available to her and thus could not objectively be considered materially adverse.”
This may not be the end of the story. Judge Schott's attorney has said that she will appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court.