On Tuesday, March 21, 2023, the Supreme Court of New Jersey publicly censured and permanently barred Bernice Toledo, former Passaic County surrogate, from holding any judicial office.

The case is styled ‘ In the Matter of Bernice Toledo, Former Surrogate,’ case number #ACJC 2019-189.

The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct specifically Canon 1, Rule 1.1, Canon 2, Rule 2.1, Canon 2, Rule 2.2, Canon 2.3(A), Canon 3, Rule 3.17(B)(6), which require:

Jurists to observe high standards of conduct to preserve the integrity and independence of the judiciary.

Jurists to promote public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

Prohibiting jurists from permitting family, social, political, financial, or other relationships or interests to influence their judicial conduct or judgment.

Prohibiting jurists from lending the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others.

Toledo, in a Formal Complaint, was alleged to have engaged in judicial misconduct when she falsified a judgment to improperly appoint a longtime friend and a political ally as an administrator to a $600,000 estate over the deceased man’s cousin. She was further alleged to have misrepresented to the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC) Investigators the extent of her relationship with the appointed administrator.

In a letter addressed to the state’s highest court, on November 29, 2022, the ACJC recommended the imposition of a public censure with a permanent bar to holding judicial office in the future pursuant to a Stipulation of Discipline by Consent entered into by Toledo and the Disciplinary Counsel and filed before the ACJC on November 9, 2022.

Accordingly, the Court ruled in favor of the Committee’s recommendation and entered an order accepting the tendered discipline by consent.

The disposition reads:

“It is ORDERED that Bernice Toledo, a former Surrogate, is hereby publicly censured; and it is further

ORDERED that Bernice Toledo is hereby permanently barred from holding or securing future judicial office; and it is further

ORDERED that the stipulation of discipline by consent, Respondent’s affidavit of consent, and supporting documentation in the certified record submitted to the Court are hereby incorporated by reference into this Order, in accordance with Rule 2:15-15A(b)(4).”

Ms. Toledo served as a Surrogate of Passaic County, a position to which she was first elected in 2011.  Her profile can be accessed here.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.