PATERSON, NJ - Longtime City of Passaic Municipal Judge Xavier C. Rodriguez withstood a barrage of questions from the Paterson City Council Tuesday night as part of his bid to take the bench in Paterson.
With more than 16 years of judicial experience, Rodriguez offered confidence that he is worthy of the appointment by Mayor Andre Sayegh to fill the position left vacant when Paterson Municipal Court Gerald Keegan passed away in April.
Councilman Bill McKoy kicked off the proceedings asking Rodriguez about his “judicial philosophy.”
“How will you bring justice and balance to our city,” McKoy questioned, adding that it is apparent that the need for the legal system to combine “social conscience with enforcing the law” is greater than ever.
Rodriguez offered his view that every defendant that comes before him is different, and that with many years on the job he has learned how to “deter (illegal) conduct” while also knowing when to be “merciful and lenient.”
Under questioning from Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ruby Cotton regarding an incident that left Rodriguez with an “admonishment,” the long-time legal professional said that his show of support for former Passaic Mayor Sammy Rivera following his 2007 arrest stemmed from his longstanding, and personal relationship, with the former elected official and his wife.
A New Jersey Supreme Court filing from March 12, 2008 reviewed by TAPinto Paterson recounted that on September 7 of the previous year Rodriguez was featured in a photo published by the The Record newspaper that showed “a number of individuals who were standing outside the Mayor’s (Rivera) home on the day of his arrest.”
Rivera was later sentenced to 21 months in federal prison on corruption charges.
Having received a call from Rivera’s wife following the arrest, Rodriguez recounted, the judge went to provide advice and comfort to a long time friend. While no additional action was taken against the judge the Court found that his presence “created the likelihood that the public would believe that (Rodriguez) is not completely independent of politics, politicians, or political influence.”
Clarifying from the outset that his concerns had nothing to do with Rodriguez “personally or professionally,” First Ward Councilman viewed the appointment as “another broken promise.”
Reiterating his often espoused view that more should be done to appoint qualified Paterson residents to such positions Jackson said that is especially true for those “endowed with the responsibility to represent people in Paterson who feel they’ve been disenfranchised.”
After giving Rodriguez the opportunity to fend off questions regarding negative online reviews of his performance on the bench Second Ward Councilman Shahin Khalique gave the final statement among his colleagues saying that “with 16 years of service and eight bad comments, that’s great record.”
The council is expected to approve the nomination at their next meeting on Tuesday, May 28.
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