OCTOBER 11, 2007
Almost half of the municipal court judges in New Jerseyâ??s second-largest city are being investigated by the state Attorney General for illegally fixing tickets for friends and family and several have already resigned.
The scandal has severely depleted Jersey Cityâ??s busy municipal court system, which has a total of 10 judges but only six are hearing cases pending the outcome of the probe. The crisis has forced the stateâ??s Supreme Court chief justice to assign Jersey Cityâ??s daily court operations to a Hudson County judge.
Among those who resigned under fire is Jersey Cityâ??s Chief Judge Wanda Molina, who is accused of fixing parking tickets for a woman with whom she was romantically involved. Three other judges have removed themselves from the bench in the last few weeks, including one that fixed a ticket for a fellow judge involved in the scandal.
Corruption among public officials seems to be a growing trend in New Jersey, a state infested with indicted and convicted legislators and, pretty soon, judges.
Last month a dozen public officials were arrested and federally charged in a statewide political corruption ring featuring prominent state and city lawmakers as well as top school board officials.
The accused, all Democrats, have been charged with extortion and bribery for taking hefty cash bribes to influence the award of public contracts. The scheme spans from northern to southern New Jersey and includes five members of the same local Atlantic County school board, a pair of state Assemblymen, the mayor of Passaic and councilmen from several cities.
Earlier in the year two veteran Democrat state senators (Wayne Bryant and Sharpe James) were federally charged with fraud and corruption for illegally using their public office for enrichment and defrauding taxpayers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.
Even New Jerseyâ??s U.S. Senator, Democrat Robert Menendez, is being investigated by a federal grand jury for illegally steering lobbying business to his former chief of staff with whom he was also romantically linked.
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