The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct has recommended that Middlesex County Assignment Judge Alberto Rivas be censured for his inappropriate courtroom remarks in a dispute over nude photos.
The committee on Wednesday said Rivas’ conduct was “aggravated considerably” by his past receipt of two private reprimands. One of those was issued July 2013 for his conduct in two separate matters in which he displayed “an injudicious demeanor towards litigants appearing before him.” The other, in October 2014, was for his “discourteous treatment” of a criminal defendant.
“Notably,” the ACJC presentment said, in connection with the 2013 reprimand, Rivas “assured the committee that such conduct was an aberration and voluntarily participated in sensitivity training, a fact about which respondent was reminded on receipt of his second reprimand in October 2014.”
Rivas’ “repeated displays of discourtesy toward litigants and the appearance of bias engendered by that conduct renders his behavior in this instance significantly more egregious than that of previous disciplinary matters involving similar demeanor issues,” the presentment said.
The ACJC’s presentment backed off its earlier accusations that Rivas showed bias based on race, creed, gender, religion or other such factors, and that he had allowed family, social, political, financial or other relationships or interests to influence his judicial conduct.
But the ACJC reaffirmed its earlier allegations that Rivas’ conduct violated canons requiring judges to exhibit independence, integrity and impartiality, and to maintain high standards of conduct; failed to act in a manner that promotes confidence in the judiciary; failed to act in a patient, dignified and courteous manner to litigants, jurors, witnesses and lawyers; and failed to refrain from harassment.
Rivas, who is self-represented in the disciplinary case, could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday night. He previously apologized for his remarks, while admitting the factual allegations in the complaint. He also filed a statement referencing his continued efforts to seek counseling to avoid repeating his misconduct.
The complaint stems from a January 2019 hearing in open court in a case called J.V. v. M.R. The case stemmed from a dispute between a husband and wife, and the husband’s girlfriend. The girlfriend filed an order to show cause seeking the return of a set of photos showing her in various stages of undress, which she claimed were possessed by her boyfriend’s wife.
At one point in the hearing, according to the documents, Rivas expressed doubt about the girlfriend’s statement that she did not know where the wife worked.
Rivas, the documents said, responded, “Baloney. That’s not true. If you’re screwing him—let’s be frank now, because I should not be wasting judicial resources on this kind of malarkey. If you have been screwing him for these years, there’s no question that you know where she works. That’s how affairs work.”
Later, Rivas asked the wife why she was still with her husband, then told her, “I would suggest divorce, and take half his pension. That’s an option you have, having sat in family court. You can take his pension.”
Rivas also said to the girlfriend, according to documents, “I will give you a piece of advice. … The only person you should be sending naked pictures to are Hugh Hefner. He will pay you $100,000 for the use of them.”
Then, according to the documents, Rivas turned his attention to the husband, who was present at the hearing, but was a nonparty in the case. “I wish you were up here, because I’m gunning for you, because you are despicable,” Rivas said.
Published at Wed, 05 Feb 2020 15:54:00 +0000