Four Jersey City, N.J., municipal judges, including the former chief judge, were charged Monday with improperly dismissing traffic and parking tickets for themselves, relatives, friends or colleagues.
Wanda Molina, who resigned as chief judge on Sept. 20, was charged with second-degree official misconduct, as were part-time Judges Pauline Sica and Victor Sison, who took unpaid leaves of absence last month. All three have since been replaced.
A fourth judge, Irwin Rosen, also on unpaid leave, was charged with third-degree official misconduct. Since Rosen has not yet been replaced, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner issued an order Monday suspending him from judicial duties.
The second-degree charges against Molina, Sica and Sison each carry a potential jail term of 10 years. Rosen faces a possible five-year sentence.
Molina is accused of dismissing five parking or traffic tickets for her personal companion. Sica allegedly dismissed a parking ticket issued to Sison, downgraded another for him and downgraded a traffic ticket issued to a member of Sison's immediate family. Sison is charged with soliciting Sica to handle those tickets for him. Rosen allegedly fixed one parking ticket he had received three years ago.
Rosen took an unpaid leave on Sept. 26, Sica on Sept. 28 and Sison on Oct. 4. All three were part-time judges and all were holdovers, having exceeded their terms, and were awaiting reappointment.
No charges were leveled at Vincent Signorile, a full-time judge also on holdover status, who took an unpaid leave Oct. 10.
Also not charged were two court workers suspended Sept. 10 for allegedly fixing 65 of their own tickets.
At a conference announcing the charges, Attorney General Anne Milgram said that her investigation is ongoing, led by Deputy Attorneys General Thomas Clark and Asha Vaghela and investigators Lisa Shea and Lisa Cawley.
"When judges take official action in cases where they have a personal stake, or someone close to them has a stake, it seriously erodes public confidence in our judicial system," Milgram said. "These judges broke the law. They violated their duties and put their interests ahead of the interests of justice."
Rabner, announcing Rosen's suspension, said he had ordered a review of the entire municipal court system to ensure that proper procedures for dismissing tickets are being followed. He said the judiciary would continue to notify the attorney general of its findings in all appropriate cases.
"The troubling conduct alleged in today's complaints should not call into question the vast work of many fine public servants. But improprieties in even a single case undermine trust and confidence in our municipal court system," Rabner said.
Molina's lawyer, Gerald Krovatin of Newark's Krovatin & Klingeman, said the charge against her "reflects a premature and fundamental misunderstanding of the practical, day-to-day operation of the Jersey City Municipal Court."
"We are confident that Judge Molina has done nothing intentionally wrong and nothing criminal," he said, adding that Molina "looks forward to the eventual dismissal of this misguided charge."
Milgram said Molina, Sison and Rosen were served with complaint summonses Monday morning but service of Sica's complaint was pending because she could not be immediately located. Sison, who has his own law firm in Jersey City, did not return a reporter's calls, and it was not known whether he had retained a lawyer by press time.
Rosen also declined to take a reporter's calls Monday; a receptionist at his firm said Rosen planned to meet with counsel late Monday, but refused to name Rosen's attorney.
Signorile's lawyer, Joseph Hayden, of Roseland's Walder Hayden & Brogan, said Monday that his client's conduct was "consistent with the customs and traditions of Municipal Court."
Molina's full-time position was filled on Oct. 11, when Mayor Jerramiah Healy appointed Margaret Marley, a Jersey City municipal attorney. She will not serve as chief judge, however.
Sica and Sison were also replaced, along with Judge Dennis McGill, who resigned last August for unrelated reasons. Those replacements, all part-time, are:
- Radames Velazquez Jr., of Gold Albanese & Velazquez in Jersey City, an assistant county counsel and former Hudson County freeholder;
- Francis Babcock Jr., a Jersey City solo and former assistant county counsel; and
- Wilson Campbell, of Wilson Elser Moskowitz in Newark.
Healy still must fill Rosen's vacancy and, depending on what happens with Signorile, possibly his full-time slot.