A former Jersey City municipal judge suing the state judiciary over what he claims was harsher disciplinary treatment because of his race has won a key discovery ruling.
On July 29, U.S. District Judge Steven Mannion granted plaintiff Wilson Campbell's motion to compel the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct to disclose whether Maurice Gallipoli — Hudson County's assignment judge at the time of the disciplinary case — was ever accused of racial bias.
The ACJC must also turn over, for in camera inspection, records of an ethics investigation of Superior Court Judge Lawrence DeBello over his intimate emails to a former law clerk.
Campbell, a black judge who resigned after his romance with a white bailiff came to light and who drew a reprimand, alleges he was treated differently than DeBello because his relationship was interracial. DeBello and the clerk are both white.
Gallipoli pressured Campbell to resign and when he resisted, had him suspended, Campbell claims in his pro se race-bias and retaliation suit, Campbell v. Supreme Court, 11-cv-555.
In addition, Gallipoli allegedly instigated the ethics case against Campbell and "acted in concert" with the ACJC to drag it out to damage his reputation and career and cause him emotional distress.
DeBello not only exchanged steamy missives with his clerk but helped her find a job with the Public Defender's Office.
He received a stiffer sanction than Campbell — a censure — but was not asked to resign and remains on the bench, though he was transferred from Hudson County to Mercer.
Campbell notes that DeBello was married at the time and used the judiciary's email system to send more than 100 messages, persisting even after Gallipoli told him to stop.
In contrast, Campbell and the bailiff were single and had a consensual dating relationship that Campbell asserts was allowed under court policy governing relationships between judges and court employees.
Campbell alleged that "in the history of the New Jersey Judiciary no judge had ever been charged with an ethics complaint for a consensual dating relationship with a judiciary employee" and that Gallipoli wanted to punish him for the interracial relationship.
Campbell, who eventually resigned from his part-time judgeship, sued Gallipoli, along with the Supreme Court, and the ACJC's executive director John Tonelli and disciplinary counsel Candace Moody, in January 2011.
He accused Tonelli and Moody of acting as "personal prosecutors" for Gallipoli and engaging in selective prosecution. He asserted claims under federal civil rights law, the Equal Protection Clause and the state Law Against Discrimination, as well as state tort law.
In March 2012, U.S. District Judge Esther Salas dismissed all but the LAD claims against Gallipoli.
She threw out the claims against the court without prejudice due to Campbell's failure to specify any wrongdoing by the court.
But Salas suggested that even if Campbell fleshed out the allegations in an amended complaint, those claims might be barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
Salas found Tonelli and Moody absolutely immune under Rule 2:15-22(a), which shields ACJC members and staff from suit for conduct in the performance of their official duties.
They were also entitled to quasi-judicial immunity because they were performing a quasi-judicial function in deciding to file an ethics complaint against Campbell, she held.
Gallipoli, on the other hand, was not protected by judicial immunity because he was acting as an employer rather than a judge, Salas found.
"Gallipoli's decision to temporarily suspend Campbell, accompanied by his request that Campbell 'pack his bags and leave,' was an administrative act," she said, rejecting Gallipoli's argument that he was fulfilling his judicial duties in his oversight role as assignment judge.
Salas held that the alleged disparity in how Gallipoli dealt with Campbell and DeBello stated a prima facie case of race discrimination, as did Campbell's retaliation claim — that after he filed notice of intent to sue for discrimination, Gallipoli delayed resolution of the ACJC complaint.
She knocked out the rest of the claims against Gallipoli, however.
Last September, Campbell subpoenaed the ACJC for records about the investigation of DeBello and any complaints about Gallipoli filed since 2000.
The ACJC responded by sending the presentment, formal complaint, answer and Supreme Court's censure order on DeBello and stated that to the extent it had any responsive documents about Gallipoli, they were confidential.
Campbell's motion to compel said the ACJC should have to turn over more than the public documents on DeBello and any complaints against Gallipoli that the ACJC had elected not to pursue.
Mannion agreed and gave the ACJC until Aug. 12 to clarify whether it had any complaints of race, ethnic or color bias against Gallipoli and to provide him with the full file on DeBello.
Gallipoli's lawyer, John Bowens of Schenck Price Smith & King in Florham Park, has asked for 10 more days because the records are in storage.
Neither Campbell, now a Newark solo, nor Bowens returned a call.
Gallipoli, who retired last year after 25 years on the bench, including eight as assignment judge, declines comment. He is now with Porzio Bromberg & Newman in Morristown and a member of the Disciplinary Review Board.
Campbell also sued Sedgwick Detert Moran & Arnold for discrimination and retaliation for allegedly forcing him to resign from his associate position in the Newark office because of the interracial nature of the affair and his complaints that the firm was biased against minority lawyers.
That case settled on undisclosed terms in May.