Passaic County Surrogate Court Judge
Bernice Toledo serves with distinction as the Passaic County Surrogate Court Judge. Her talents have contributed to the successful functioning of a high volume court that serves 501,000 county residents. Her work is aimed to help those who would otherwise have no voice without her: the deceased, the incapacitated, and the orphaned child. Bernice Toledo also lends her experience as the NJ State Superior Court, Deputy Clerk.
Her community involvement began during her time as an Operations Manager at a livery company. There, she established relationships with agencies to coordinate the transportation that linked clients with critical resources. Some agencies were: the Passaic County Women's Shelter for Domestic Violence, the St. Paul's Community Development Center, The Paterson Division of Health's Ryan White Program, and Barnert Hospital's Mental Health Clinic. Her community efforts were both professional and personal. In her spare time, she was a volunteer mentor for high-risk youth in the United Passaic Organization. There, she offered mentoring to youngsters who were under the supervision of Juvenile Probation.
By working days and studying nights, she earned her Bachelor of Science, her Master of Arts, and her Juris Doctorate degrees. An illustrious graduate of William Paterson University and Seton Hall University School of Law with Cum Laude honors, her legal work experiences started with the New Jersey State Superior Court, Family Part. There, she recommended diversion programs that prevented the unnecessary detention of non-violent juveniles and was a court mediator for the landlord/tenant litigants. As a former Deputy Attorney General in the state's Division of Law, Bernice provided legal representation to the State’s child protection agency. She requested an assignment in the urban areas so that she could use her experience and cultural sensitivity to advance the needs of families in accordance with the Child Welfare Mandate. During her tenure as Deputy Attorney General, she also represented the Board of Elections. At the Board of Elections, she promoted the integrity of the election process. Her work assured that communities who have historically been the target of voter suppression, were heard. It was her aim to assist voters so that they were neither disenfranchised nor was their vote diluted. She was Associate Counsel to the Board of Social Services. Her efforts helped to fund the cost of community programs for women, children, and seniors. At social services, she initiated litigation in New Jersey that was aimed at recovering funds owed to the Board. She utilized interstate litigation tools to assure that persons who moved out-of-state remained under the continuing exclusive jurisdiction of the New Jersey court.
She's has used her role as Surrogate Court Judge to help needy communities. She has organized a school supply and book bag distribution on the court house steps. In fact, she helped over 400 people that day! Some of those were displaced families who had suffered the loss of all of their belongings in a large Paterson fire. She also distributed school items at the Oasis House (a haven for women and children) and the Paterson Boys and Girls Club. She had a toy drive that served some of the oncology patients at St. Joseph's Regional Children's Hospital, St. Joseph's R.C. Church, and the Dana Day Care in Clifton. She donated the candy and goodies needed for movie night at the St. Joseph's Church youth ministry and the Easter Baskets for the Prospect Park holiday celebration.
She routinely delivers presentations to emphasize the importance of estate planning. She alerts community members of the importance of the health care proxy, the living will, the last will, and guardianship complaints for incapacitated adults. She safeguards about twenty million dollars in trust for children under her jurisdiction. She advances the importance of foster parenting and adoption when children are without relative resources. She is a guest lecturer at the Passaic County Technical Institute where she teaches a course on the Rules of Evidence to the Criminal Justice students. She has presented at the Passaic High School's Drop Out Prevention Program. She serves on the NJ Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the Outside Activity of Judicial Employees and on the St. Joseph's Healthcare Board of Trustees, Strategic Planning Committee.
Her service has been well-recognized. The Observer news outlet has named her among the most influential Latinos in the state of NJ. The Asbury Park Press selected her as an "Up-and-Comer" Rising Star. She has earned the Paterson Task Force Community Action award, St. Joseph's Healthcare System's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Community Service Honor, the Shirley Chisholm Law Award, the NJ Community Development Corporation service award, and the Everlasting Life Foundation Ministry Humanitarian Award. The Honorable Bernice Toledo has been saluted by the State Legislature in recognition of her exemplary record and professional achievements upon Hispanic Heritage Month.
Bernice Toledo has established a superb record of service, commitment, and achievement that has helped to give a voice to the voiceless within her community and within the State of NJ. It is her aim to continue to serve.