A now-retired Atlantic County Superior Court judge committed ethics violations, including lying to a Senate panel, the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct found Friday.
The panel recommended Judge Steven Perskie be censured for not recusing himself from a 2005 case in which he had a personal and professional relationship with a potential witness, then remaining involved even after it was transferred to another judge. The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case in June.
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Perskie, 66, who lives in Margate, retired Feb. 1, 2010, five months after the ethics charges were filed but denied that was behind his decision. He left a legacy that included authoring the amendment to the state Constitution that brought casino gaming to Atlantic City. He later chaired the Casino Control Commission for four years and was twice appointed to the Superior Court bench, serving a total of 15 years.
In a written statement, Perskie said he could accept the findings regarding his recusal and court visits, but took issue with the committee’s assertion that he was not forthcoming when he testified Oct. 16, 2008, before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Perskie admitted there were discrepancies between the facts and what he testified to before the Senate panel from memory, “but to extend that unintended error into a suggestion that I intentionally misled the Judiciary Committee is inaccurate and unfair.”
But the committee found Friday that Perskie’s failure to be forthcoming was “offensive and anti-ethical to the long-standing principles of integrity and independence on which the judiciary was founded.” The committee wrote that the offense was “heightened by the fact that (Perskie) took an oath to be truthful before his testimony.”
The committee acknowledged his contributions in its findings, but said “despite our admiration of (Perskie’s) service to the state, we simply cannot ignore our unanimous conclusion that (he) has committed three separate and serious ethical infractions.”
In the 2005 case that came before Perskie, Alan Rosefielde was sued by Atlantic City’s Flagship Resort after the company fired him as its chief operating officer. As part of the case, Rosefielde claimed that one-time resort insurance broker Edward DiNicolantonio, known as Eddie DeNic, threatened a bad revaluation for the condo complex unless it rehired his nephew’s insurance firm, Frank J. Siracusa and Son.
Candace Moody, disciplinary counsel on the advisory committee, charges that Perskie never fully revealed his previous personal and business relationship with Siracusa, then refused to give the case to another judge because of it. Eventually the case did go before another judge, but Perskie then sat in when Rosefielde testified over two days.
Rosefielde told the advisory committee in July that it was then he knew the case was over for him.
“We lost,” he recalled telling his attorney. “It’s fixed. Let’s just minimize our losses.”
Perskie claimed he often sat in on other cases, and he did not weigh in on the case.
But the advisory panel found Friday that his recusal “obligated (him) to remain completely disassociated from the case.”
Perskie’s attorney, Frank Corrado, said he would not comment on the case but released a written statement from the former judge.
“Judges are human and make mistakes, and I indeed made mistakes in my handling of this case,” Perskie wrote. “I share the committee’s view that the appearance of the integrity and independence of the court is of paramount importance, and I regret that, in this case, I allowed that standard to be violated.”
Corrado has until April 22 to submit a brief. Moody then has until May 20 to file hers.
Oral arguments are set for 2 p.m. June 3 in the Supreme Court courtroom of the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton.
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Advisory committee’s findings
- The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct found “clear and convincing evidence” that Superior Court Judge Steven Perskie:
- Inappropriately failed to recuse himself from Kaye v. Rosefielde, despite a conflict of interest.
- Demonstrated a lack of candor when testifying before the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee.
- Appeared twice in another judge’s courtroom to observe the trial after he recused himself.
- 1971: Is elected to the state Assembly, where he served three terms.
- 1976: Authors and introduces legislation that becomes the Casino Control Act, allowing casinos in Atlantic City.
- 1977: Wins election to the state Senate.
- 1982: Is appointed Superior Court judge by then-Gov. Tom Kean.
- 1989: Leaves the bench to help Jim Florio's successful run for governor. He then serves as chief of staff.
- 1990-94: Chairs the Casino Control Commission.
- 1996: Returns to private law practice.
- 2001: Is re-appointed to the bench as a Superior Court judge.
- Sept. 9, 2009: Three-count ethics complaint filed
- Feb. 1, 2010: Retires from the bench.
- July 19-20, 2010: Hearing before the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct