On Tuesday, November 29, 2022, the Supreme Court of New Jersey – Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct entered an Opinion in the judicial conduct proceeding relating to former New Jersey state surrogate Bernice Toledo.

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

Ms. Toledo violated provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct namely 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), and Rule 1:12-1(g).

The Code of Judicial Conduct can be found here.

On December 29, 2019, the Disciplinary Counsel Maureen G. Bauman filed the Formal Complaint against Ms. Toledo. On September 20, 2021, The New Jersey Supreme Court found cause to order Ms. Toledo’s suspension from exercising judicial duties, with pay.

The opinion reads:

“Respondent presided a hearing in which her impartiality or the appearance of her impartiliaty might reasonably be questioned by virtue of her relationship with one of the administration applicants in an estate matter.”

The opinion goes on:

“Respondent’s appointment of that applicant, her friend, as administrator of the estate, rather than a relative, thereby inappropriately using her office to advance the private interests of another.”

The opinion continues:

“Respondent’s failure to disclose to ACJC investigators the nature and extent of her relationship and interactions with Mr. Keith Stewart, who turned out to be his friend.”

The Disposition states:

“The Committee, on weighing Respondent’s multiple ethics violations against the mitigating circumstances presented, including Respondent’s otherwise unblemished judicial disciplinary history, and the applicable precedent, finds the imposition of a public censure, with a permanent bar to holding or securing future judicial office, to be the most appropriate quantum of discipline.”

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.