ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: A state committee has charged a part-time Norwood municipal judge with violating codes of judicial conduct in dismissing a speeding ticket against his daughter’s former speech teacher, over the objections of the borough police officer who cited her, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
Municipal Judge Robert Solomon, a local attorney who is also a member of the Norwood Parent-Teacher Organization, should have sent the case against Sheila Esposito to another judge. Instead, he held back-room discussions to try and get the charge reduced — and, when that didn’t work, threw the ticket out entirely, said Candace Moody, disciplinary counsel for the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.
Esposito, a teacher in Norwood, came to court on Feb. 10 to answer the speeding ticket, according to the complaint, obtained exclusively by CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
That night, Solomon went to the municipal prosecutor handling the case, Laura Nunnick, and privately asked whether the ticket could be knocked down to an obstruction of traffic offense, which would drastically reduce the number of points on Esposito’s license, cut the possible fine and keep her insurance rates from going up, Moody wrote.
Nunnick agreed to consider the move only if the officer who wrote the ticket agreed — but the officer objected, Moody said. Instead, the officer suggested an unsafe driving offense, which would also reduce points but carries a mandatory fine.
The prosecutor offered the deal to Esposito, but she “did not respond,” the complaint says.
Court was already under way when Solomon took a break, pulled Nunnick aside, and learned what had happened.
He then “followed the Municipal Prosecutor and the police officer into the Municipal Prosecutor’s office, where the Municipal Prosecutor indicated to [Solomon] that ‘this isn’t right’,” Moody wrote.
Nunnick then asked for an adjournment, but Solomon refused, she said.
The teacher and the officer testified, the complaint says, yet Solomon “found both the police officer and Ms. Esposito credible, despite the fact that their versions of the events on the day Ms. Esposito was stopped for speeding differed entirely.”
Solomon “found Ms. Esposito not guilty.”
In having private conversations with the prosecutor, Solomon created a world of trouble for himself, Moody said, in that he “attempted to use the power and prestige of his judicial office to advance Ms. Esposito’s private interests” — a direct violation of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct.
Hearing the case instead of giving it to another judge was “a clear conflict of interest,” among other violations, she added.
Judicial codes of conduct are in place specifically “so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved” and the judicial system “promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality” of judges, Moody wrote.
Solomon could not immediately be reached.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Solomon graduated cum laude from Fairleigh Dickenson University in 1977. He went to Drake University Law School in Iowa and returned, first to New York and then to New Jersey, to practice law, according to metrolaw.com.
Solomon made a name for himself defending the rights of injured workers and motorists. He was appointed Norwood’s Municipal Court judge on Jan. 1, 2006.