NJ judge reprimanded over sexually suggestive comment

FILE - Generic gavel on wooden table.

New Jersey’s Supreme Court has issued a public reprimand of a former municipal court judge after a judicial conduct panel concluded that he made a suggestive comment to a female defendant.

Judge Hector Rodriguez was serving in Franklin Township in Somerset County in December 2017 when he made the comment.

According to a state panel on judicial conduct that recommended that Rodriguez be sanctioned, the judge told the defendant she would be released on her own recognizance but she appeared confused and asked him if she needed to do anything else.

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"Not that you can do in front of all these people," Rodriguez said, according to the panel, which reviewed an audio recording of the exchange and interviewed court personnel who were present.

The committee that recommended the public reprimand said it found Judge Rodriguez made an "inappropriate remark to a defendant that demonstrated discourteous and undignified behavior which detracted from the dignity of the court. "

In response to the panel's recommendation, Rodriguez argued that the comment wasn't sexual in nature and that he instead meant the woman didn’t need to post bail to be released, a contention the Supreme Court rejected.

"Whether Respondent intended his words as a sexually suggestive remark, an attempt at humor, or something else, Respondent knew or should have known that his choice of words was inappropriate," the court wrote last year.

The reprimand was included in an order by the court made public on Tuesday.

A message was left Tuesday with an attorney representing Rodriguez.