Judge faces censure for telling woman at center of revenge porn case to sell nude photos to Playboy

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A New Jersey ethics panel has recommended a high-ranking judge be censured over his handling of a revenge porn case, in which he suggested that a woman suing her lover’s wife send nude photos of herself to Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner.

The state Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct made its recommendation on Wednesday in the case of Alberto Rivas, the assignment judge in Middlesex County. The state Supreme Court will make a final determination on punishment.

The panel found Rivas ‘demonstrated a lack of self-control’ during a January 2019 dispute involving the girlfriend of a married man, and his wife. The girlfriend was seeking to have the wife return explicit photos of herself that she feared would be shared on social media.

The committee also concluded that the jurist exhibited ‘repeated displays of discourtesy’ to all three people in the love triangle and ‘went above and beyond the appropriate bounds.’ 

Rivas raised doubts about the girlfriend’s claim and felt the woman was trying to embarrass the wife. He called the man ‘despicable’ and ‘a knucklehead’ and told all three he was ‘just dying to whack one of you.’

Rivas also told the girlfriend that the only person she should be sending the pictures to was Hefner, who ‘would pay you $100,000 for the use of them.’

Hefner died in 2017 at the age of 91 after suffering complications from an infection. 

Rivas was highly skeptical of the mistress’ account, and accused her of manufacturing a ‘complete fabrication’ to damage the wife’s reputation.

Rivas blasted the mistress in court after she claimed not to know where the wife worked.

‘Baloney. That’s not true. If you’re screwing him – let’s be frank now, because I should not be wasting judicial resources on this kind of malarkey. If you have been screwing him for these years, there’s no question that you know where she works. That’s how affairs work. This is not someone you just met,’ the judge said at the hearing, according to court documents. 

Rivas also questioned why the wife did not divorce the husband, who works as a corrections officer.

‘I would suggest divorce, and take half his pension. That’s an option you have, having sat in Family Court,’ Rivas told her. ‘You can take his pension.’

Rivas has apologized and has indicated he is seeking counseling.

‘I regret the comments I made during the proceeding,’ Rivas said in a statement released by court officials. ‘I felt the court was being manipulated, but I let my feelings about the case influence my language, tone and demeanor, all of which were inappropriate.’ 

Rivas said in a response to the complaint that his comments were not borne from ‘family, social, political, financial or other relationships or interests.’ 

He said he was responding to a ‘bad faith’ allegation from the mistress and not bias or prejudice.

The panel’s report also noted that Rivas was privately reprimanded in 2013 and 2014 for his previous conduct in court. 

Rivas is one of several judges whose behavior in cases involving women has put them in hot water with the state in the last year.

State Superior Court Judge John Russo Jr. faces possible removal from the bench after he asked a woman in 2016 why she didn’t “close your legs” to prevent a sexual assault.

Last summer, the state Supreme Court terminated the temporary assignment of retired Judge James Troiano after he declined to order a 16-year-old rape suspect tried in adult court because the youth came “from a good family.”

East Orange Municipal Judge Steven Brister faces discipline for suggesting to a domestic violence suspect that men should treat women ‘as if you’re holding a feather, just to let them know you’re the man and you’re in control.’

This month, the Supreme Court issued a public censure of Newark Municipal Judge Marvin Adames for jailing a woman on a disorderly persons offense involving a landlord-tenant dispute for what he called disrespectful behavior in court.

The state suspended all court proceedings one day in October so all state court judges could take part in training on gender violence and bias. 

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