Scotch Plains Judge Accused of Abuse of Power 'Had Pure Intentions,' Lawyer Says

Judge Antonio Inacio may face disciplinary action for intervening on behalf of a Garwood councilman's daughter who was arrested on an underage drinking charge in Clark.

Judge Antonio Inacio – who serves as municipal judge for Scotch Plains, Clark and Garwood – has responded to accusations that he abused his judicial power to lessen the punishment for a Garwood councilman's daughter who was arrested on an underage drinking charge.

In a letter to the NJ Advisory Committee on Municipal Conduct in response to the allegations, Inacio says he "at no time acted with any intent to violate the Rules of the Court.”

Inacio's lawyer, Edward Kologi, told Patch that the judge "had pure intentions," although he doesn't deny that someone "could view his conduct in a different light." 

"Judge Inacio is an extremely well-regarded judge who has serve as municipal judge for several decades," Kologi told Patch. "He's presided over thousands and thousand of cases without ever having any formal disciplinary action brought against him, which in and of itself is remarkable. In this case, there are certain factual allegations made against Judge Inacio which he has admitted, but we take the take position that there was never any malicious intent behind his conduct."

According to a complaint filed against Inacio before the Supreme Court of New Jersey Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct earlier this month, the councilman's daughter, a senior at Arthur L. Johnson High School, was arrested in Clark on Jan. 29. The complaint says the councilman's daughter was required to attend two meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous as part of her punishment and the councilman reached out to Inacio to discuss his daughter's matter, specifically, the requirement that his daughter attend the meetings.

The complaint alleges that Inacio then met with the teen and spoke with her about an alcohol-related tragedy he experienced. The complaint says Inacio followed their meeting by composing a letter on the official stationery of the Clark Municipal Court and sending it to the chairman of the JCC, wherein he requested that the chairman consider his talking to her in lieu of her attendance at the AA meetings, writing "forgive me for being so bold, but I think my telling Councilman X's daughter of the tragedy that occurred in my life was infinitely more compelling to her than any attendance at an AA meeting would have." 

For more details, read our first story on the complaint: 
Judge Accused of Abuse of Power By Trying to Help Councilman's Daughter

The Garwood official is referred to as "Councilman X" in the complaint to protect his underage daughter's identity. Patch has also chosen not to identify the councilman or his daughter.

Kologi said he has personally heard the judge tell the story on numerous occasion.

"He had a very good friend he lost in an alcohol-related accident," Kologi told Patch. "To be able to bare his soul and relate a story like that ...  I think a lot of people appreciated it tremendously, and I think it probably has saved a lot of defendants who have gone through the various courts he sits on. He genuinely felt exposing this young individual to a more comprehensive view of the system than an AA meeting would, would be beneficial to her, though he can certainly understand the committee's position."

The complaint alleges Inacio attempted to use his office to advance the private interest of the Garwood councilman's daughter, giving the appearance of attempting to curry favor with the councilman.

The second count of the complaint states that Inacio has also represented the councilman in the purchase of his home, and his business, in debt collection matters. It alleges that Inacio was still representing the councilman for several months when he was named the Garwood municipal judge, a violation of the New Jersey Rules of Court. The councilman's case was eventually taken over by Garwood attorney Gary I. Maher, but not until April, while Inacio was appointed judge in May, according to the complaint.

According to Kologi, the councilman actually recused himself from the vote to appoint Inacio because Inacio has represented him. 

No hearing date has been set yet. The councilman and officials in Scotch Plains, Clark and Garwood had no comment when reached by Patch. Inacio is still serving as judge in Scotch Plains, Clark and Garwood. 

"We hope the governing bodies take no action and that everyone keeps any judgement in abstention until the committee decides the matter," said Kologi.

In the meantime, Kologi says the judge has received significant support from colleagues.

"We've had a number of phone calls from judges, lawyers – people who volunteered to be fact witnesses for Judge Inacio, lawyers who have volunteered to be character witnesses," said Kologi. "They think he is one of the finest judges to serve on the municipal bench."


Judge Accused of Abuse of Power By Trying to Help Councilman's Daughter

michael dawson December 31, 2013 at 04:02 PM
too bad. a good deed was done then the judge got in in the a**. AA might have been too heavy for the kid.


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