On the heels of our recent post about Judge Noel Hillman (D.N.J.), here’s another shout-out to our home state and its judges. It concerns Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto, of the New Jersey Supreme Court, who is ATL’s Judge of the Day.
From the New York Times:
[Justice] Rivera-Soto is a New Jersey Supreme Court justice, and he now faces an ethics complaint charging that he abused his position when he contacted several local officials in an attempt to help his son, who was having trouble with a teammate on his high school football team.
In a rare action against a member of New Jersey’s highest court, the state’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, which filed the complaint on Friday, accused Justice Rivera-Soto of violating court rules, including engaging in conduct “prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.”
So what’s the basis for the complaint? More discussion, after the jump.
Here are the details of Justice Rivera-Soto’s alleged conduct:
Last September, according to the committee’s complaint, the justice’s son said [a football teammate] had hit him. The school warned the senior but took no further action….
Then, on Sept. 28, the justice’s son said that the senior had head-butted him during a touch football game. The vice principal said it was an accident. Justice Rivera-Soto warned school officials that if they did not act, he would go to the state police and file a criminal complaint naming the officials.
Later that evening, the justice called Richard Tsonis, the Haddonfield police chief, who sent a detective to his home. Justice Rivera-Soto gave the detective his Supreme Court business card, according to the committee’s complaint. The justice later signed a criminal complaint of assault against the senior.
The next morning, the justice called the vice principal, demanded action against the senior and again identified himself as a justice.
Later that day, the justice telephoned Judge Francis J. Orlando Jr. of Camden County Superior Court, advising him of his complaint, the committee said. He also called James P. Lynch, the county’s acting prosecutor.
The justice, according to the committee’s complaint, “further asked the prosecutor to make certain that his complaint received attention.” He also requested, with both Judge Orlando and the prosecutor, that the “matter be treated no differently than any other matter,” the committee said.
“No differently than any other matter”? That may have been a touch disingenuous, Your Honor.
Should we be surprised by all this? Maybe not. From PoliticsNJ.com:
[L]egal insiders for years have considered the McGreevey-appointee has one of the Judiciary’s most narcissistic jurists. Even prior to his confirmation to the bench, his former adversaries were quoted in an April 2004 Star-Ledger profile describing him as “pompous,” “arrogant and abrasive,” and questioned whether he had the temperament for the post.
At the end of the day, we are untroubled. If a judge can’t use his judicial office to help his son defeat schoolyard adversaries, what good is being a judge?
(It doesn’t even help you that much with restaurant reservations — which is why Judge Laurence Silberman, former Ambassador to
Czechoslovakia Yugoslavia, makes his reservations under the title of “Ambassador.”)
Update (7/20/07): Justice Rivera-Soto was ultimately censured (PDF) for his conduct.
New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Accused of Ethics Violation [New York Times]
Could Lance be headed to the top court this time? [PoliticsNJ.com]