Thursday, November 18, 2021
Misconduct committed as a judge led to both removal from the bench and, more recently, a three-year suspension from the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The Daily Voice (Hackensack) covered the removal
An investigation found that DeAvila-Silebi misused her position to try to help a former intern involved in a custody battle, calling the Fort Lee Police Department in May 2015 requesting officers retrieve the intern's child from his grandmother and bring him to the intern, NJ.com says.
DeAvila-Silebi claimed the former intern had a court order supporting her custody rights that weekend -- but she did not, NJ.com reports.
When the judge testified before the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, DeAvila-Silebi said she had gotten a call that morning from "either an attorney, a sheriff's department or the prosecutor's office or a local police department," who had read the order over the phone, the media outlet said.
That call had been placed from the former intern's cellphone number, the panel found.
The Disciplinary Review Board report sets out the former judge's intervention of behalf of a former intern in a custody matter which led to removal
On November 9, 2017, the Supreme Court issued an Order to Show Cause why respondent should not be removed from office as set forth in the complaint for removal, and appointed a three-judge special panel to conduct a hearing, take evidence, and report its findings to the Court.
The special panel held a six-day hearing and issued a June 19, 2018 report, determining, beyond a reasonable doubt, that respondent should be removed from office. Specifically, the panel found that respondent had made several misrepresentations to the FLPD, including that she was on emergent duty; that she had a responsibility to perform judicial duties in any vicinage besides Passaic on May 9, 2015; and that she had no knowledge of Chermont, their relationship, and their communications. The panel found that respondent had not seen a court order in Chermont’s case, and that there was no “emergent application.” The ACJC prosecuting attorney had obtained Chermont’s cell phone records via subpoena, which revealed that, between February 2 and May 9, 2015, twenty-four text messages and telephone calls had occurred between Chermont’s and respondent’s cell phones. On February 25, 2015, a telephone call from respondent to Chermont’s phone lasted fifty minutes. The evidence clearly supported the fact that respondent knew Chermont. In fact, Chermont’s internship application and related paperwork demonstrated that respondent had referred her to the Judiciary, and additional evidence confirmed their continued and frequent communication after the internship concluded, and demonstrated that respondent’s version of the events on May 9, 2015 were “a complete fabrication.”
The DRB noted a wealth of favorable character evidence and other mitigation sufficient to avoid disbarment
On balance, respondent has presented significant mitigation, she is not beyond rehabilitation, and, based on precedent, we determine that a three-year suspension is the appropriate quantum of discipline necessary to protect the public and to preserve confidence in the bar.
Vice-Chair Gallipoli and Member Zmirich voted to recommend respondent’s disbarment.
Unlike in most U.S. jurisdictions, disbarment is permanent in New Jersey. (Mike Frisch)