ACJC Files Ethics Complaint Against Justice Rivera-Soto

The presenter for the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC) filed a complaint today with the Supreme Court charging Justice Rivera-Soto with various violations of the Canons of Judicial Conduct (Canons 1, 2A, and 2B) as well as Rule 2:15-8. Justice Rivera-Soto will now have an opportunity to file an answer and have the allegations considered by the full committee. If the ACJC finds that there is sufficient evidence to support the charges in the complaint, it will return a formal presentment. In that event, final discipline will be decided by the remaining six justices of the Supreme Court.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has long maintained it possesses a constitutional grant of authority to impose discipline on sitting judges. (See In re Mattera, 34 N.J. 259 (1961). However, to date, no case has construed the authority the court has to impose discipline on one of its own sitting members. In two previous cases where discipline was imposed by the court on a sitting justice (cases involving the late Chief Justice Wilentz and former Associate Justice Robert Clifford) the justice who was the subject of the disciplinary action consented to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for the purpose of the disciplinary.

The basis of the allegations in the complaint relate to the use of the prestige of the judicial office in a family dispute related to Justice Rivera-Soto’s son. The allegations, although serious, do not come anywhere close to the level of egregious misconduct that resulted in the removal of two judges who used their judicial position to influence similar type disputes involving family members. (See In re Yacavino, 100 N.J. 50 (1985) (Superior Court judge removed from judicial office) and In re Samay, 166 N.J. 25 (2001) (municipal court judge removed from judicial office and subsequently suspended from the practice of law for 3 years; In re Samay 175 N.J. 438 (2003).)

Download a copy of the complaint.

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