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Court Ruling on Political Donations Moves Judge Sheridan Off Ridgewood Bench

Ridgewood council to discuss situation on Sept. 5 in closed session, officials say.

Longtime  Judge Phillip F. Sheridan has resigned from his position following a NJ State Supreme Court ruling that bars law firms employing municipal judges from making political contributions, Ridgewood Court Administrator Maria Doerr confirmed Tuesday.

Sheridan, who's been on the bench in Ridgewood for more than 23 years, tendered his resignation effective Sept. 1, Doerr said. Ridgewood will draw from a list of acting municipal court judges to take over in the interim until a replacement is found, Doerr said.

The Star-Ledger reported in July of 2010 that in an attempt to quash questions about the source of the politican contributions, the state supreme court unanimously ruled that law firms' business accounts can not be used to make donations if they employ lawyers who also double as municipal judges.

Last month the state's top court published its amended ruling, setting the process in motion. 

"On July 19, 2012, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a number of court rule amendments that are effective September 4, 2012, including the changes that prompted Mr. Sheridan to give up his Ridgewood judgeship," said William Sharlow, of Archer & Greiner, the law firm where Sheridan is employed.

According to Sharlow, the amendments were first widely disseminated on July 30, when Sheridan found out and promptly took action.

Sheridan's original firm, Hertein Bernstein, merged with Archer & Greiner in 2011. Campaign finance records show Archer & Greiner has made over $330,000 in political contributions between 2003 and 2011. 

Professional codes bar judges from directly making contributions to political campaigns. A search of public records found no donations made by Sheridan.

The departing judge was given two choices – either resign from the firm or leave his position as part-time municipal judge in the village. 

"Judge Sheridan has had a long, distinguished tenure in Ridgewood," Mayor Paul Aronsohn said Tuesday. "We are truly grateful for the quantity and quality of his service. He will certainly be missed."

Council members will be discussing the situation in closed session on Sept. 5 and will move "expeditiously and thoughtfully" to appoint a replacement, Aronsohn said.

This report was last updated at 6:25 p.m. Wednesday to include comment from a representative of Archer & Greiner.

JAFO August 29, 2012 at 01:50 PM
As they say "don't quit your day job". Makes sense to me.
Inigo de Loyola August 29, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Is it me or does the Judge looks like Jerry Sandusky.
Boyd A. Loving August 30, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Judge Sheridan's resignation offers Village Council members the perfect opportunity to consider merging Ridgewood's Municipal Court with one from a neighboring community, saving Ridgewood taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars each year in the process. However, knowing our history of spending taxpayer dollars as if they grow on trees (can you say $400k bathrooms?), I predict Village Council members will not even consider this option and just replace Judge Sheridan and continue "business as usual."

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