Censure, disqualification recommended for ex-judge accused of groping woman

By: - April 11, 2022 6:26 am

Nino Falcone was a municipal judge for more than 30 years, most recently in North Bergen. (New Jersey Monitor)

A state panel on Friday recommended a retired municipal judge accused of groping a woman in his law office be censured and permanently disqualified from judicial office.

The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct also referred ex-Judge Nino F. Falcone to the state Supreme Court’s Office of Attorney Ethics for possible discipline, the panel said Friday.

Falcone was suspended and criminally charged two years ago with molesting a woman at his North Bergen law firm when she visited him in August 2019 in her role as the office and billing manager for one of his law clients. At the time Falcone was a municipal judge in North Bergen.

In a January disciplinary hearing, he said the intimate contact was unintentional and occurred during an awkward hug he said the woman initiated. The woman denied that account and said Falcone tried to give her money afterward, which she regarded as a bribe to solicit her silence. He later contacted her — in a call prosecutors secretly recorded — to apologize and admit his actions were “inappropriate,” she testified.

In a document made public Friday, the committee said Falcone’s explanation of the incident as an embarrassing accident “strains credulity” and accused the former jurist of “pervasive dishonesty.”

His actions “shock the conscience and reveal a lack of self-control and sound judgment on respondent’s part, and a disrespect for the rule of law and the judicial disciplinary process,” the committee wrote. “Respondent’s censure and permanent disqualification from future judicial service for these excesses is wholly justified and necessary to restore the public’s confidence in the judiciary as a body of integrity committed to the rule of law.”

Falcone’s actions were egregious enough that he deserves to be removed from office, the committee said.

Falcone, 80, is already out of office. He retired from the part-time judicial post, which he had held since 1987, in August 2020.

Falcone was arrested a month after the incident for criminal sexual contact and eventually completed a pretrial intervention program, a diversionary, rehabilitative program for first-time offenders.

His attorney, Jeffrey Garrigan, didn’t return a request for comment.

The committee’s recommendation now goes to the state Supreme Court, the body tasked with disciplining judges.

Falcone is one of a string of New Jersey judges accused in recent years of everything from making misogynistic comments in court to battling a school over youth sports.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.

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