Investigations

Women wage campaign to impeach New Jersey judge

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A group of women who say they've been discriminated against by a judge in Monmouth County, New Jersey are now trying to get him impeached. They've filed a petition with the state assembly to have the judge removed.

What's interesting is the role that social media has had in bringing these women together to share their stories. It started with one mother who thought she was alone in her legal battle with Judge Paul Escandon, but she discovered there are dozens with similar experiences.

"All of a sudden, one day I was his mother and the next day I had fewer rights than a babysitter on the street," Rachel Alitoff said.

Alitoff temporarily lost custody of her son, now 4, when her divorce case appeared before Judge Escandon in Monmouth County, who's now the target of a Facebook campaign to have him removed. He's also the subject of a legal petition just filed by Alitoff and several other women claiming their legal rights were violated.

ALITOFF: "My child was taken away by a Judge that is biased against women and that can happen to anyone."
WALLACE: "A lot of people think there must be a reason.
ALITOFF: "People think that it means you are a bad mom, I have no criminal history, there were no parenting issues, this could happen to anyone. I don't have access to anything, it's as if I walked away from a fire."

Alitoff, who moved in with family and now works two jobs, wondered if there were others like her. She started reaching out on social media.

"I put a posting on Craigslist and I said if this has happened, reach out to me," she said.

She heard from Patricia Pisciotti, and then dozens more women. We met some of them.

"It was just unbelievable how many had come forward later on to say that they had been abused by this judge, deliberately bankrupting putting them in a situation where they couldn't care for their children, or a situation where he could take the children away from them," Pisciotti said.

"If I didn't meet these women or meet the people who had came through it or passed by and hear the story, I don't know what I would do." I was homeless for eight months," another woman named Tamkeka said. "Judge Escandon made me feel like I had less right than a person who murdered someone."

"I lost everything and speaking out is all I have," Paula Wolfe said. "The system actually made me feel worthless and I'm empowering myself again."

The petition asks for the impeachment of Judge Escandon, who was moved to a different civil court a few months ago.

"These are dozens of women who have come together with similar stories, similar injustices," Robert Tandy said. "So essentially they're not only being denied their due process rights but they're essentially being forced into poverty and many cases women have filed bankruptcy."

"I can't believe that this can happen in the United states. This is like living in a third world country," Alitoff said.

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