New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto is being sued by a former high school football player who alleged that the jurist used his power and prestige to harass him after he gave Rivera-Soto’s son a bloody lip in a practice. Rivera-Soto has already been reprimanded by his Court and he is even accused of making fun of a Ben Franklin re-enactor! He is just the latest state judge to face criminal and civil charges this year.
Conor Larkin is the player who was the focus of Justice Rivera-Soto ire. He was the captain of the undefeated 2006 Haddonfield High School team. According to his complaint, his ability to play and even his love for the game changed after Sept. 28 of last year when he gave Rivera-Soto’s son, Christian Rivera a cut lip during a practice. The Justice insisted that this was due to a head butt and went ballistic.
After complaining to school officials, the jurist called the town’s police chief and arranged a meeting to press criminal charges. He used Chief Richard Tsonis’ personal cell phone to arrange the meeting. He had been given the cellphone number as part of his protection in his personal capacity. The Justice also gave out his business card with his formal office and title to the police officers and later to court personnel.
Rivera-Soto became irate in the handling of the case by the Camden County Family Court, particularly after a postponement. He called the presiding judge and reportedly invoked his position in demanding answers about the handling of the case.
For his conduct, Rivera-Soto was given a rare reprimand by the Supreme Court over his decision to file a criminal charge against Larkin and his conduct. It notes improper contacts with court staff, the use of his official title and position for personal reasons, and even making fun of Larkin’s father’ hairstyle — he is a Ben Franklin re-enactor.
The court said there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Rivera-Soto’s conduct “created a risk that the prestige and power of his judicial office might influence and advance a private matter, thereby engendering an appearance of impropriety.”
Larkin is now suing in tort and seeking compensatory and punitive damages against Rivera-Soto. He must also likely face the retribution of Ben Franklin re-enactors across the country.
For the details on the judicial punishment, click here.
For the latest story on Rivera-Soto, click here