Melissa Hayes at the Jersey Journal reports on the sentencing of the former Jersey City Chief Municipal Judge Wanda Molina for fixing traffic tickets. This is an incredible story of systemic corruption of Small Law in New Jersey, reminding us all why it's important that people with integrity hold these important positions:
"The former chief judge of the Jersey City Municipal Court was remorseful and stoic this morning as she was sentenced to probation and community service for fixing nine tickets. Wanda Molina, 51, told state Superior Court Judge Harry Carroll, sitting in Hackensack, that she regretted her actions.
Molina was sentenced to probation followed by 364 days in prison, but if she successfully completes the terms of her probation she can ask that the prison portion of the sentence be dismissed. In addition, she must complete 500 hours of community service and pay restitution for the fixed tickets, an amount the court said is still being calculated. Molina's attorney had argued just for probation. [Judge] Carroll said he struggled with the sentence, having handed down a three-year prison term last week for another figure in the tix-fix scandal.
While [Judge] Molina had an otherwise exemplary career, he said, she must be held to a higher standard. However, former court administrator Virginia Pagan had admitted to a far higher number of fixed tickets, 215. Also, Pagan pleaded guilty to second-degree crimes while Molina pleaded guilty to third- and fourth-degree crimes, which don't mandate jail time, Carroll said. Molina has also forfeited her right to public employment. Ten supporters were in the court with Molina and 20 letters had been written on her behalf.
'I had a lapse in judgment for which I am accountable,' she told the court. 'The punishment I have already endured for the last three years is one that will be with me for the rest of my life.'' When Molina left the court, she was hugged by teary-eyed supporters.
Molina and Pagan were among several Jersey City Municipal Court officials, including judges, snared in a 2007 ticket-fixing scandal following an investigation launched by Hudson County Assignment Judge Maurice J. Gallipoli. The probe was turned over to the state Attorney General's Office for prosecution and moved to Bergen County Superior Court.
According to the indictment, Molina fixed the tickets for a close friend. Although she initially pleaded innocent, Molina admitted her crimes in June."
As I have said many times on this "blawg" do not underestimate the importance of Municipal Courts. Several of the most profound lawyers I've ever had the honor of knowing held these positions with pride and integrity.