Lawyers for New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto's filed a response to disciplinary charges filed against him last week.
Rivera-Soto denies allegations that he used or allowed the power and prestige of his office to influence or advance the private interests of his family and his son. He says he insisted at all times that the matter be treated in the ordinary course The Justice says it was never his purpose or intention to influence the acts of anyone by reference to his judicial position, and that his intent at all times was to avoid any appearance of impropriety by insuring that the proceedings were handled in the ordinary course.
"To the extent any person understood Respondent's actions in any different light, Respondent regrets that understanding," Rivera-Soto's attorney said in the response.
Rivera-Soto, an Associate Justice, faces disciplinary action for allegedly using his post to influence a Camden County Superior Court Judge presiding over a dispute involving his son's high school football team. Rivera-Soto is accused of using or allowing "the power and prestige of his office as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to influence or advance the private interests of his family and his son."
According to a complaint, the Justice's son, playing touch football with Haddonfield Township High School classmates last September, was involved in a "head-butting" incident that may or may not have been intentional. Rivera-Soto, upset with the school's failure to discipline the other student involved — and after threatening to involve the State Police — called the local Police Chief's cell phone to demand an investigation. The Justice eventually filed a criminal complaint against his son's teammate.
The complaint also alleges that Rivera-Soto "referred or alluded to his judicial office" during a telephone conversation with the Superintendent of Schools, and personally called the Assignment Judge, the Acting Camden County Prosecutor, and other court officials to discuss the case.
Rivera-Soto is accused of violating the Canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Court Rules, "which requires judges to observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved.. to avoid creating the appearance of impropriety and to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary… (and) to avoid lending the prestige of their office to advance the private interests of others;… (and) prohibits conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.