Legal Ethics

Jury Awards $1.4M to Ex-Prosecutor Fired After Blowing Whistle on Municipal Judge

A former contract prosecutor for Warren Township has been awarded $1.4 million by a Morris County, N.J., jury in a whistle-blower suit. It contended she was fired after she complained that a politically connected municipal judge had taken the bench while inebriated and acted unethically.

The New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct eventually determined that Michele D’Onofrio’s complaints about ex-jurist Richard Sasso had merit, reports the Daily Record.

Meanwhile, however, she had been fired in 2007 from her job as city prosecutor and she said she was fired also by the law firm for which she worked due to her complaints about Sasso and sex discrimination. D’Onofrio sued DiFrancesco Bateman Coley Yospin Kunzman Davis and Lehrer as well, settling on undisclosed terms in 2008.

D’Onofrio filed suit against the township in 2009, contending that the township’s actions were in violation of a state law intended to protect those who complained about problems with government workers. The jury yesterday awarded her $551,903 in compensatory damages and $827,854 in punitives.

“Finally justice prevailed,” her lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, said today. “She stood up for the public, not for herself. It’s a really nice win.”

Attorney Dominick Bratti represents Warren. He says the township is mulling over the situation, but leaning toward an appeal.

Related coverage: “Lawyer Alleges Firing Due to Judge Grievance” “N.J. Judge Says He Isn’t Resigning Due to Ethics Complaint, Lawsuit”

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