I’ve said it here before, but I’ll say it again. As a former municipal prosecutor I find it hypocritical for anyone in law enforcement or the judiciary to act in a manner that suggests they believe themselves to be above the very laws to which they hold the rest of society. Being a New Jersey DWI defense lawyer, I work with municipal judges everyday when representing clients who have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
Any police officer, prosecutor or judge who doesn’t live up to the same standards he or she sets for the rest of us doesn’t deserve our respect. This all came to mind upon reading a news report covering the recent arrest of a Bridgewater municipal court judge on drunk driving charges in Lavalette, NJ.
Police reports indicate that the car Rizzolo was driving was observed swerving on Route 35. Officers from the Lavallette Police Department pulled Rizzolo over, after which he explained his actions were caused by a ringing cell phone. The patrolman advised the judge that he was going to administer several field sobriety tests, including a balance test, which Rizzolo refused to take due to a bad back and injured ankle.
According to reports, Rizzolo passed two other field sobriety tests. Soon after, he shouted that his heart hurt and had to be carried out of the police car. He further refused to submit any breath samples at the police station, nor blood samples at Community Medical Center in Toms River, where he was taken after he started to gag, according to reports.
Based on news articles, Rizzolo reportedly served as municipal prosecutor in Raritan Borough, Somerville, Franklin (Somerset) and Bound Brook. During his tenure he prosecuted more than 750 cases involving charges of driving under the influence. According to a 2008 interview about his appointment to the Bridgewater bench, he stated that he never lost a case at trial.
Rizzolo now must face a prosecutor and judge himself as he is scheduled to appear on September 22 in Lavallette Municipal Court. The charges are numerous, including driving under the influence of alcohol, obstruction of justice, failure to maintain lane, reckless driving, refusal to submit a breath sample and a violation of a municipal loud and unusual noise ordinance.
As for his judgeship, news reports say that Township Administrator James Naples received Rizzolo’s resignation on Tuesday, September 1, four months before his term was to expire. Taking on Rizzolo’s duties for the time being is Judge William Kelleher Jr., the other municipal court judge in the township. For now, township officials will review the court’s needs on a month-by-month basis to decide whether or not a second judge needs to be hired in the interim.
Bridgewater municipal court judge facing DWI charge resigns, MyCentralJersey.com, September 2, 2009