Bergen County mayor once acquitted of corruption charges is set to become judge
Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez among nominees OK’d by Senate panel
Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez's past legal saga received scant attention from the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose members instead praised his legal acumen. (Hal Brown for New Jersey Monitor)
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nominations of six people to the New Jersey Superior Court Monday, among them a Bergen County mayor who was acquitted of corruption charges nearly 13 years ago.
The panel’s vote clears Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez and the five other would-be judges for full votes before the Senate on March 20. Suarez’s past legal saga received scant attention from the committee, whose members instead praised his legal acumen.
“He’s what we want in New Jersey on the Superior Court. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s going to make a tremendous jurist,” said Sen. Joe Lagana (D-Bergen)
Suarez was one of more than two dozen officials — a group that included multiple mayors and two members of the Assembly — who faced political corruption charges as part of a 2009 federal sting dubbed Operation Bid Rig III. He was part of a far smaller group that emerged from the saga without a criminal conviction.
The longtime Ridgefield mayor was accused of accepting a $10,000 bribe in exchange for aiding a federal informant, Solomon Dwek, who was posing as a developer seeking permits in Ridgefield.
Unlike some of the other Bid Rig defendants, Suarez was not caught on tape saying he would do any favors for Dwek. Suarez also turned down taking $10,000 in cash, voided a $10,000 check Dwek gave him, and kept $2,500 that Suarez’s lawyers argued the mayor believed was a legitimate political donation. A jury found Suarez not guilty.
Suarez’s trial was referenced just once on Monday — and vaguely.
“Most people know you as mayor, but they don’t know that you have an outstanding law practice, that you’ve done so much as a lawyer over the years,” Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) said. “You’ve certainly have had some trials and tribulations relating to your political office, but certainly never any question as to your legal acumen.”
Most of the other Superior Court nominees advanced Monday also hail from Bergen County.
- Amy Lefkowitz of Fair Lawn.
- Nicholas Ostuni of Oradell.
- Marc Ramundo of Ho-Ho-Kus.
- Demetrica Todd-Ruiz of Pittsgrove.
- Dalya Youssef of Somerset.
New Jersey continues to face a shortage of judges that in February forced New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to suspend civil and divorce trials in six counties.
Most of the people advanced Monday were nominated by Gov. Phil Murphy this year. One was nominated in June 2022.
The Senate panel also advanced the nominations of four would-be administrative law judges and three workers’ compensation judges Monday.
Though they are called judges, those presiding over administrative law and workers’ compensation cases are not part of the judiciary, instead serving through the Office of Administrative Law and the Department of Labor, respectively.
The senators also approved the nominations of University Hospital business administrator Eric Pennington and Gail Gordon, a prominent Republican attorney and the wife of New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Commissioner Bob Gordon, to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority in advance of the 2026 world cup, which is set to be held at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.
The panel also approved a single bill that would allow members of the Judicial Retirement System who deferred retirement to continue accruing pension credits while serving as a county prosecutor or as the administrative director of the courts.
The current courts administrator, Judge Glenn Grant, was permitted by lawmakers in 2021 to remain in the post beyond the mandatory judicial retirement age of 70.
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