Legal Ethics

New Jersey judge accused of making vulgar, suggestive remarks faces disciplinary charges

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A New Jersey judge faces disciplinary charges for allegedly making vulgar and sexually suggestive remarks to lawyers and witnesses.

In a complaint made public Tuesday, a state committee on judicial conduct accused Passaic County Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Portelli of showing “poor judgment and a lack of dignity and respect for his office,” the Record reports.

The complaint alleges that during a break in a hearing in 2014, Portelli put his arms around the shoulders of a deputy attorney general and told her and her supervisor they were doing a great job. Portelli also said he liked how the deputy attorney general “shoves it up the law guardian’s ass,” it alleges.

At another hearing a few months later, Portelli allegedly wrote “you look nice” on a legal pad while a family service specialist was testifying and showed it to her, the complaint says.

Portelli also told attorneys on several occasions that he “hated” handling guardianship proceedings because they were “so boring and long,” the complaint alleges.

Portelli referred questions to his lawyer, Ralph Lamparello, who said the judge doesn’t believe that he violated any judicial canons of ethics and will contest the charges. “He has been an outstanding juror for the last six years, and no other complaint has ever been filed against him, so this is something that he takes very seriously,” Lamparello said.

Portelli, 60, was appointed to the bench in 2009. He is assigned to the family division, presiding over child guardianship matters and complaints against parents by state child protection officials.

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