New Jersey Superior Court Judge John F. Russo Jr. is expected to be suspended from his position for three months without pay, per recommendation of the state’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct after it became public that he suggested a sexual assault survivor close her legs. Superior Judge Russo has been on administrative leave since 2017 while the committee investigates his previous actions.
A woman, who will remain unidentified, sought a restraining order from Judge Russo in 2016 against a man who had previously sexually assaulted her. Judge Russo said to her, according to the court transcript, “Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?” He continued to pressure her stating, “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”
The Advisory Committee found that Judge Russo violated the code of judicial conduct on four separate occasions, including the exchange with these women. The Committee released a statement that “questioning of the plaintiff in this manner, to include hypotheticals, was wholly unwarranted, discourteous and inappropriate” and could “re-victimize the plaintiff.”
The other violations of judicial conduct include overruling an alimony case in which he knew the plaintiff, as well as abusing his office to reschedule a guardianship hearing for his son with disabilities.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered a hearing in July in order to assess the recommendations. The Advisory Committee has also recommended “appropriate courtroom demeanor” training for Judge Russo.
Media: Washington Post 2019; Huffington Post 2019; NY Times 2019; Refinery 29 2019