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Phil Rizzo. (Photo: Phil Rizzo).

Judge rejects Rizzo bid for venue change, in-person trial

Trial of ex-candidate being sued by Morris GOP is scheduled for today

By David Wildstein, December 19 2022 11:05 am

A Superior Court Judge today rejected Phil Rizzo’s bid to move his small claims court trial out of Morris County and said the constitutional rights of the mountebank former candidate for Congress and governor were not being violated because the trial was being held over Zoom.

The Morris County Republican Committee filed a lawsuit alleging that Rizzo for Congress stiffed them out of a $1,500 table fee they agreed to pay for the GOP county convention last winter.   Rizzo has filed a $600 counterclaim, alleging that an ad they purchased from the county party organization was never used.

In court filing, Rizzo claimed that he could not receive a fair trial in Morris County because of the outsized control the local GOP holds over the court.

Judge David J. Weaver pushed back on those claims.

“There just no evidence of that there’s substantial doubt that a fair, impartial trial can be reached because the Morris County Republican organization is a part to this action,” Weaver said.  “I am a Sussex County judge, and to the extent that it’s relevant, I’m tenured and I’m ten months away from retirement.”

Rizzo’s attorney, Ronald Berutti, also argued that his client had a constitutional right to an in-person trial.

“That argument is not persuasive either.  This is not a free speech issue,” he said.  “In the constitutional arguments that are made.  The I don’t really feel that there of any real moment or substance or none of the legal authority citing defendant’s moving papers really is persuasive or overly relevant to the issue before us now.”

A Rizzo campaign aide, Daniel Laucik, Jr., was released from the lawsuit after Berutti stipulated that he was acting on behalf of the campaign.

Weaver is now in a settlement conference with Berutti and Joseph Bell IV, the attorney for the Morris GOP.

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