NJ Judge Paul Escandon Tenure Vote Delayed As NJ State Senate Judiciary Committee Meeting Got Hot Monday Evening
Judge Paul X. Escandon
New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee for Judge Paul Escandon's Tenure
TRENTON - Monday afternoon's New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee meeting ran deep into the evening as many cried foul and manipulation from the start of the committee meeting after former family court judge and current civil court judge in Monmouth County, Judge Paul X. Escandon, was moved from number 2 of 13 on the agenda to number 13 and dead last.
Later in the evening during Escandon testimony, NJ State Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari attempted to quash the testimony of several former female litigants opposed to Judge Escandon's tenure. Scutari eventually allowed the women to testify and also tabled the vote on Escandon till a future committee meeting. To some, Judge Escandon is viewed as a New Jersey judge with the most complaints by litigants before his court in the history of the New Jersey judiciary.
Judge Escandon was finally called to testify on his own behalf just before 5 p.m. Monday evening. Sources in the audience also said they overheard State Senator Joe Kryillos tell Monmouth County Assignment Judge Lisa P. Thornton, "we are trying to delay the start of his testimony to help him and relax, everything is going to be o.k."
Sources in the audience viewed Escandon's late evening testimony as political maneuvering by state senators on the committee favoring Escandon who hoped the media, those seeking to speak in opposition, as well as members of the general public, would lose patience to stay late into the evening. They were wrong. Many stayed late and actively participated.
Judge Escandon tried to be a bit transparent and accountable in his testimony. "I have made some mistakes," Escandon said. "There have been highs and lows. If given the opportunity to continue as judge, I will try to do better."
As Escandon testified he appeared extremely nervous and had more than a dozen people consistently showing him support from the legal and political community in the audience trying to reassure him everything would be just fine. Escandon was visibly anxious and even provided voluntary testimony which seemed to hurt him more than help him.
He also sought to change his appearance by growing a beard in recent times. The beard appeared to try to disguise Escandon since a famous New York Post photo from 2012, which accompanied an article with several allegations of corruption and fraud, made a clean-shaven Escandon look like a deer caught in headlights.
NJ State Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, chairman of the State Senate Judiciary Committee and NJ Senator Joe Kryillos of Monmouth County, were the senators most vocally in support of allegedly corrupt and biased Judge Paul Escandon. State Senator Nia H. Gill, who is also NJ Senate Pro Tempore and Vice Chair of the State Judiciary Committee, and State Senator Gerald Cardinale were both vocally against the poor judgment and character of Judge Escandon.
Senator Gerald Cardinale asked Judge Escandon about a high profile case he sat on in Monmouth County regarding a reputed mob hit man, his wife and his children in family court. Senator Cardinale asked if Judge Escandon knew Nicholas "PJ" Pisciotti was a convicted murder and associated with organized crime. Judge Escandon said he did. Senator Gerald Cardinale then exclaimed, "This guy was not a store owner. He was not a banker. He was not a plumber. He was a capo in organized crime who admitted murdering someone!" Escandon said he believed he made the right decision in awarding Pisciotti custody of his children.
NJ State Senator Nia Gill called the move by Judge Escandon to remove the children of Patricia Pisciotti Madison from her care with residential custody as "drastic" because she tried to move from one county to another. Senator Gill said Judge Escandon appeared to be more concerned with Pisciotti Madison "defying" a previous custody agreement than with the overall proper welfare and care of the children.
"There were other things you could do to penalize the mother for moving," Senator Gill said. "You can't use the children to punish the mother."
After Escandon seemed to be burying himself with his own testimonial shovel, Chairman Scutari swiftly ended Escandon's personal testimony. Soon after, he invited Monmouth County Presiding Judge Lisa P. Thorton to testify on behalf of Judge Escandon. Judge Thornton said she loved Judge Escandon and she sought to defend his many mistakes by saying, "I, myself, made many mistakes and I too had cases overturned by the State Appeals Court." She made herself and Escandon sound like two rotten apples at the bottom of a barrel. She also said she agreed with Escandon's decision to give a mob hit man, who was convicted of murder, care of the children.
When Assignment Judge Thorton herself appeared to not be helping Judge Escandon with her testimony, Chairman Scutari preemptively sought to end all testimony and bring Judge Escandon's tenure to an immediate committee vote. The vote did not happen.
Several members of the audience were outraged and broke protocol and yelled directly at Chairman Scutari that their voices deserved to be heard before the public Senate judiciary meeting. One of the audience members was heard to say, "At risk of getting arrested, what the heck is going on?"
Scutari then asked for all to be seated and he attempted to explain the voting decision and timing was at his discretion as Chairman. Several members of the audience responded by saying, "you can do so, but making such a unwise decision may also bring yourself unwanted national press attention."
Chairman Scutari then asked for an immediate executive session with senators behind closed doors for several minutes. The senators then surfaced and sat immediately. The audience all waited for Scutari to do the right thing.
Chairman Scutari, then begrudgingly, agreed to allow, first 2 and then 3, of many women who signed up to testify against Judge Escandon, to do so. Although only 3, strong, women, who were past litigants before Escandon's court, fully testified against Judge Escandon, many strong supporters of families, women and children were present in the audience all day. One large support group had its leader and others testify against another judge on the committee agenda, Judge Catherine Enright. This support group had dozens of supporters arrive by bus and also filled out forms saying VOTE NO against Escandon given to the committee.
Paula Diaz Antonopoulos Wolfe, who was a vocal former litigant before Judge Escandon in family court in Monmouth County complained of how Judge Escandon arbitrarily refused to accept clear and convincing evidence, along with important witnesses she brought to court before him in her family court case on several occasions. Wolfe testified, how as a professional herself, she saw a clear lack of professionalism and outright disrespect among several Senators as they had many side conversations, in addition to not reading testimony materials, and not lifting a finger to even take a note with previous testimony against Judge Escandon. Escandon had similarly sided with her ex, who Wolfe said was also very abusive. Wolfe also lost residential custody of her young daughter to her husband.
Patricia Pisciotti Madison was riveting in her testimony against Judge Escandon about the trauma she had to endure being married and living with a convicted murderer and former capo in the mob. Nicholas "PJ" Pisciotti was awarded custody of his teenage son and two daughters in a custody battle with his ex-wife. "He was not the same person as an older adult, that I met when I was 16 years old," said Madison. "He also started taking steroids after getting involved with gyms."
One of the most important people to testify against Judge Escandon was Rachel Alintoff. Ms. Alintoff also lost residential custody of her young, autistic, son and accused Judge Escandon of many acts of bias, fraud and restrictions of her due process and constitutional rights. She accused Escandon of lying to her many times, including a big lie stating a child custody hearing was not required. New Jersey law makes clear, parental custody can not be changed without a proper custody hearing.
"Judge Escandon illegally stripped me of my joint, legal custody and gave my abusive, separated, husband sole custody of my son, while also giving him effective veto power over my parenting time," said Rachel Alintoff. What Judge Escandon did severally traumatized both myself and my son," Alintoff continued.
Rachel Alintoff quickly filed an emergent appeal against Judge Escandon's decision and was granted residential custody of her son by the New Jersey Appellate Court. However, several years later, Judge Linda Grasso-Jones, a close friend of Judge Escandon's in Monmouth County family court, granted residential custody of her son back to her alleged abusive, separated, husband. He and his family allegedly have a cozy and biased relationship with Judge Linda Grasso-Jones.
Ms. Alintoff continued her analysis. "I, sadly, have met many dozens of women whose stories of trauma and bias are very similar to my own nightmare. Here is the very common theme: Rich men in NJ with strong political, law enforcement and judicial connections, use a strategy of calling their wives crazy to get custody of their children. (Even though most of these women have no history of any past mental illness or neuroses of any kind.) All had an alleged, biased and corrupt judge: Judge Paul Escandon, along with an alleged, court-appointed, biased, corrupt, court-evaluator, who also calls these wives crazy, while these husbands hide their money out-of-state or with their family members and love to keep the divorce and custody cases in the courtroom for many years until all the wives and children are truly traumatized and also file for bankruptcy. This has been going on in NJ, especially Monmouth County, for many many years."
Soon after Ms. Alintoff and the two other women testified against Judge Escandon's tenure, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Scutari appeared to be angling for another vote on Escandon's tenure just before 7 p.m. Monday night.
However, Vice Chair Gill then raised several areas of concern. Senator Gill did not believe any of the senators, especially those who left early, were ready to cast an ethical vote without proper examination of all the facts and all the testimony, including several women all the senators knew were waiting in the audience to testify against Judge Escandon's nomination for tenure.
The nominate of Judge Escandon was tabled by Senator Scutari, after Senator Gill voiced concerns that several members of the committee were not present and did not hear critical testimony before a State Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Gerald Cardinale also agreed and also asked Chairman Scutari to table the vote for a future committee meeting date. Scutari finally agreed to table the vote and end the committee meeting.
It appears the political maneuvering may not be over. A future date for the next NJ Senate Judiciary Committee could be June 9, 2016 or at the discretion of the Chairman on an earlier date. An earlier date rumored to be on the table is this Thursday, May 26, 2016. Stay tuned for more updates and also check the official NJ State Senate Judiciary Committee website daily for official information on the agenda calendar.