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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Disgracing the Bar, the Bench and the Badge

A former Essex County prosecutor, judge and police officer -- and candidate for mayor of Newark, NJ -- has disgraced the New Jersey bar, if federal government allegations are to be believed or are ultimately proven.

Clifford Minor will be indicted on bribery and obstruction of justice charges arising from facilitating a man's false confession to a weapons charge by the United States Attorney's Office in Newark.  A Star-Ledger news report states that Minor (former Essex County prosecutor, former municipal judge, former cop) accepted a bribe, which was disguised as legal fees, to convince an innocent man (who also accepted a small bribe) to plead guilty to possessing weapons in order to save someone else.  (Note to readers: The United States Attorney's Office has not yet made available the charging documents nor any press release.)

If the charges are proven or admitted, these actions strike at the very heart of the integrity of both the legal profession and our appointed public officials.  The charges are especially serious -- actually, they are revolting and abhorrent -- considering that Minor used to be a judge and former county prosecutor. 

A false confession is of the same family of falsity as perjury, witness tampering, witness intimidation and obstruction of justice.  All of these crimes defeat the essential purpose of the criminal justice system, which is to determine the facts.  All of these crimes also tend to lead to a horrible result: the investigation, charging, conviction and incarceration of the entirely innocent. 

Unlike the (long-time former Manhattan District Attorney) Robert Morgenthau types who treated their posts with seriousness and the practice of law as a vocation, it seems many other lawyers in public service treat their public positions as steppingstones for career advancement and financial success, with little or no regard for public service or the protection of the general public.  If the charges against Minor are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, they show a man who has accomplished a rare trifecta: disgracing the bar, bench and badge.

Eric Dixon is a New York corporate and small business lawyer who consults with and defends small businesses and their owners, and other individuals, against certain government and regulatory investigations, civil lawsuits and other matters.  He is available for consultation at 917-696-2442 and via email at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com 

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