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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Jersey City Judge Faces Jail in Ticket-Fix Scandal

In New Jersey, public corruption busting is not limited to the United States Attorney's Office.

A former chief judge of the Jersey City, NJ municipal court is facing a possible jail term for fixing (i.e. arranging to have dismissed) eight parking tickets written to one person whom authorities describe as a close personal companion, according to the New Jersey Attorney General's press release announcing Molina's guilty pleas here.  The press release details a separate indictment against the former Jersey City Municipal Court Administrator, Virginia Pagan, for "fixing" hundreds of parking tickets.  The inclusion of the Pagan indictment in the Molina press release suggests the official suspicion of a broader scheme of illegal conduct. 

Wanda Molina, whose LinkedIn account (click here) describes her as a "dynamic results-oriented" attorney and touts her memberships in organizations like the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, is facing up to one year in jail in addition to probation and a bar from future public employment.   

Give credit where it's due.  Note that the press release credits Hudson County Superior Court presiding judge Maurice Gallipoli with referring the matter to the Attorney General's office.   

Looking Ahead At Sentencing.   Molina is facing some jail time, despite having plead guilty, but acts of public corruption are not ordinary "paper" crimes and compromise the entire system of government.   Such acts -- by a judge -- are viewed even more harshly. 

But also take note of the bar from future public employment of any kind.  In a state like New Jersey -- and especially in a county like Hudson County which is thick in a web of public entities, some of which actually provide useful services -- a bar from public employment may be the most painful from a financial standpoint.  I do not see a bar on Ms. Molina being involved in non-profit organizations -- many of which get all or most of their funding from government at some level, and exist nominally to "do good" while in reality exist to provide their founders with salaries.   Perhaps a bar from this type of de facto public employment would have been even more effective than a short jail sentence.

Professional discipline (such as suspension or disbarment) is likely to follow from the New Jersey Supreme Court.   Stay tuned.

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