The City Council confirmed mayor Andre Sayegh’s controversial appointment of former Passaic City judge Xavier C. Rodriguez to the Paterson Municipal Court on Tuesday night.
Council members approved the appointment in a 7-1 vote. Michael Jackson, 2nd Ward councilman, sole vote against, criticized the mayor’s appointment.
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am,” said Jackson. “This judge represents what Paterson does not need.”
Jackson has said Rodriguez has been the subject of a number of complaints on a website. A website listed eight complaints against Rodriguez from 2008 through 2017.
Rodriguez has served more than 16 years on the Passaic City Municipal Court. He said during that time 50,000 people passed through his courtroom.
“If you are the nicest judge in the world, you will get some bad reviews,” said Rodriguez last week.
Rodriguez was first appointed by Passaic City mayor Samuel Rivera and later re-appointed by Alex Blanco. He served as a judge in Passaic City from Jul. 2001 to Feb. 2018, according to his resume. Mayor Hector Lora decided against re-appointing him. He has a bachelor of arts in business administration and English from Rutgers University, New Brunswick and a juris doctorate from Rutgers Law School in Newark.
Rodriguez runs a private practice out of Clifton.
Last week, he admitted to the reprimand he had received from the New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct in 2008. He was publicly disciplined for his display of support for corrupt former mayor Rivera.
On Sept. 7, 2007, a photograph in the Bergen Record showed Rodriguez standing, with a councilman and a campaign treasurer, outside of Rivera’s home on the day of his arrest.
Rivera was arrested for taking a $5,000 bribe.
Rodriguez told the committee he had gone to Rivera’s home at the suggestion of the mayor’s driver to console the first lady. He did not anticipate the presence of political figures or the media at the time of his visit.
Rodriguez should have known it was “highly improper” for him to visit Rivera’s house on the day of the mayor’s arrest, according to the committee’s decision.
Jackson received applause from a packed City Council chambers for his stance. His colleagues did not agree with his opinion.
“I hope this judge is just and fair to everybody,” added Shahin Khalique, 2nd Ward councilman. He pointed out Rodriguez received a small number of negative reviews from the 50,000 people that went before him over the years. “I hope for the best.”
Some council members appeared to absolve themselves of responsibility by asserting the appointment of judges is done by the mayor.
“This is an appointment done by the mayor and obviously confirmed by the council,” said council president Maritza Davila. “I don’t think anyone here, if I was the judge and I put you in jail or I took away your license, you’re going to have something nice to say about me.”
It’s the mayor’s prerogative to appoint judges, said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman.
“We elected someone to lead us,” said McKoy referring to Sayegh’s landslide election victory last year. “People spoke as to who they wanted in an overwhelming way.”
Council members Al Abdelaziz, McKoy, Khalique, Davila, Luis Velez, Flavio Rivera, and Lilisa Mimms voted in favor while Jackson voted against. Ruby Cotton was absent.
Rodriguez is filling the unexpired term of deceased judge Gerald Sean Keegan.