But the appointment of the four new judges to the Jersey City Municipal Court on Oct. 4 came on the heels of five judges stepping down from their posts in recent weeks due to allegations of traffic ticket fixing.
The allegations and suspicions against the five judges vary, depending on the judge. Some are suspected of having allegedly dismissed parking tickets for friends or family, while one may have dismissed tickets for a colleague on the bench.
Former Municipal Court Judges Wanda Molina, Irwin Rosen, Victor Sison, Pauline Sica and Vincent Signorile are no longer serving the court due to allegations they had improperly dismissed tickets. Molina resigned from the court, while Rosen, Sison, Sica and Signorile taken a leave of absence.
The four new judges - Radames Velazquez, Margaret Marley, Francis Babcock, and Wilson Campbell - were sworn in during a one-hour ceremony, with other judges, local officials and loved ones looking on. After they were sworn in, they put on their black robes for the first time.
Meanwhile, the state Attorney General's Office continues to investigate the ticket-fixing allegations.
State Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli, who is currently overseeing the operations of the Municipal Court, said the state's investigation and the court's own internal investigation will be "thorough" and that he holds no "prejudgment" of the resigned judges. He also offered these words about the new judges.
"I have full confidence that each and all of them - and they are not gods, they are human beings just like the rest of us - will do everything to restore dignity to the court," said Gallipoli at the ceremony.
State Superior Court Judge Sheila Venable, currently serving as the chief judge of the Municipal Court (where she served previously as a judge for 13 years) said this court will right itself in the future said the Municipal Court will "once again be a model for the municipal court system" in New Jersey.
Also in attendance was Mayor Jerramiah Healy, himself a former municipal court judge for Jersey City.The new four
The four new judges are all residents of Jersey City, and all of them have experience working in city and county courts.
Margaret Marley, a native of Jersey City, is a Seton Hall Law School graduate who worked for the past year for the city's Law Department, assigned to the Municipal Court. She also worked for six years as an assistant prosecutor for the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office. She replaces Judge Wanda Molina.
After begin sworn in by her mentor, Superior Court Judge Kevin Callahan, in front of her family, Marley spoke of her new position and of working with her new colleagues to deal with the recent situation.
"I know we have all experienced very difficult days in recent weeks. And I also know that there are very hard-working, committed individuals work in this courthouse," Marley said.
Babcock, whose daughter held the Bible during his swearing-in, was sworn in by Judge Severiano Lisboa. He replaces Judge Victor Sison.
Babcock worked for a year as an assistant prosecutor in the Jersey City Municipal Court and one year as assistant counsel for Hudson County. Both terms of service occurred in the 1990s. He said he promises to be "an employee of the people" and to start his court on time.
Campbell has worked in the Hudson County court system in recent years. He was sworn in with his fiancé by his side. He replaces Judge Pauline Sica.
"I will do my very best to be a judge of the people, by the people, and for the people," said Campbell, as he also thanked Healy and the City Council for approving his hire.
Velazquez, who grew up in Jersey City, clerked for Judge Lisboa in the Hudson County court system in the 1990s after graduating from University of Notre Dame Law School. He worked most recently in the Hudson County Counsel's office, and served from 2003-2005 as Hudson County Freeholder. He replaces Dennis McGill, who resigned from the court during the summer but it was unrelated to the recent controversy.
Velazquez sounded an optimistic note as he looked to the future of the Municipal Court.
"Forward, that should be the word of the day today," Velazquez said, "because yes, we should be celebrating that this court is moving forward." For comments about the story, contact Ricardo Kaulessar at firstname.lastname@example.org