State high court censures judge over traffic stop behavior
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s Supreme Court on Friday censured a municipal court judge over his conduct during a 2016 traffic stop where he was accused of drunken driving.
Two state troopers said they found Wilfredo Benitez asleep in his vehicle on the shoulder of Interstate 80 in Teaneck and detected an odor of alcohol.
The troopers said Benitez told them, “I’m a judge” and cursed and became belligerent after being handcuffed.
Benitez later was found not guilty of driving under the influence.
The Supreme Court on Friday accepted the findings of a committee on judicial conduct regarding Benitez, who sits in the northern New Jersey towns of Belleville and East Orange.
The committee found Benitez violated rules prohibiting improper conduct and using “the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others.”
According to Friday’s order, Benitez accepted the committee’s recommendation and agreed not to seek a hearing before the Supreme Court.
Benitez will continue to serve on the bench. He has been barred from hearing DUI cases while his case was pending, and the order prevents him from applying to hear those cases for one year.