A former Little Falls, New Jersey, municipal court judge who paid himself $11,995 in “bonuses” from a state drunken-driving enforcement grant has received an ethics complaint by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.
The former judge, G. Dolph Corradino, allegedly paid himself out of the Municipal Court Alcohol Education, Rehabilitation and Enforcement Fund without obtaining the required approval from the local assignment judge, according to an ACJC complaint made public Monday. In addition, Corradino’s expenditure of the funds was unrelated to its intended purpose, which was to hold additional court sessions to handle pending and backlogged drunken driving cases, the complaint states.
When Assignment Judge Ernest Caposela questioned him about the payments from the DWI fund, Corradino said he took the money “as his reward for the efficient performance of his court” and he believed the funds were available “to pay himself a bonus,” according to the complaint. But the ACJC says Corradino failed to comply with the proper procedure for disbursement of those funds.
Corradino was charged with violating two canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct—Canon 1.1, which requires judges to observe high standards of conduct, so the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved, and Canon 2.2, which requires judges to promote the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. The complaint seeks restitution of $11,995 to the state judiciary and $2,744 to Little Falls.
Corradino, who was first appointed Little Falls Municipal Court judge in 1993, was suspended from his post in July 2015, and resigned in July of this year. He also was the presiding Passaic Vicinage Municipal Court judge and presiding judge of Passaic Vicinage Central Processing Unit, but he was not reappointed to those positions.
The DWI fund, created by the state judiciary in 2009, is intended solely to help municipal courts dispose of drunken driving cases, and can be used to compensate municipal court judges, prosecutors and other court employees for “work performed in addition to their regular employment hours,” Acting Administrative Director of the Courts Glenn Grant said in a memo issued upon the program’s creation. The money is not intended to replace funds normally budgeted for court operation but “should be viewed as funding only for the court’s additional DWI-related work,” Grant’s memo stated. An accompanying set of guidelines issued by Grant said that “court staff can only be compensated if the session is conducted after the conclusion of regular court hours.”
From 2009 to 2011, the DWI grant was used to provide additional compensation to Corradino, the municipal prosecutor, court administrator and deputy court administrator, but from 2012 to 2015, only Corradino received compensation from the fund, the ACJC said in its complaint. An audit by the Passaic County Municipal Division manager, Sonya Noyes, revealed that no written requests were submitted to the assignment judge before Corradino made verbal requests for the funds from the Little Falls Township manager, the complaint said.
Payments to Corradino from the fund ranged from $647 in 2012 to $3,001 in 2009, for a total of $11,995 from 2009 to 2013 and 2015. In 2014 he received a bonus payment of $2,744 but it was charged to a regular municipal court salary account.
Corradino was admitted to the practice of law in 1966. His attorney in the case, Joseph LaSala of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter in Morristown, said his client has retired from all judicial assignments but intends to fight the charges.
“Judge Corradino led an exemplary, stellar career at the bench and bar for decades,” LaSala said. “When this situation arose, he completely cooperated with the investigation. He’s going to vigorously defend the material allegations in the complaint. He has the highest respect for the law and the rule of law and he has lived his career by that.”